Let’s get this out of the way first: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is barely a Jumanji film. Beyond a brief prologue (where the original board game morphs into a video game) and its jungle setting, it has little in common with the (surprisingly dark) themes or board game intricacies of the first film.
That out of the way, it does make for an entirely inoffensive, often entertaining adventure movie. Karen Gillan, Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black are the avatars for a quartet of high schoolers sucked into the game, and they must struggle past possessed jungle animals and roving bikers to restore magic to Jumanji. The fictional, fantastical setting lets the film really spread its wings in terms of silly action.
Unfortunately – like most recent Dwayne Johnson movies – where it suffers is the writing. Each of the characters has an achingly clichéd character arc broadcast in the opening minutes – one’s cowardly, one’s meek, one’s arrogant, another’s ditzy – all executed with the nuance of, well, a shitty video game. For instance, Jack Black does a sterling teenage girl impression, but why’d it have to be a hackneyed Instagram-obsessed Valley Girl? Mostly, though, Jumanji just needed to be funnier.