The original Jumanji, released in 1995, was a fun if somewhat forgettable special effects adventure about a pair of kids who unleashed jungle animals (and Robin Williams) into the real world when they started to play a magical board game. While you’d expect a follow up that comes more than two decades later to have slicker effects, the big surprise here is that it’s also a better film overall – funnier, faster and even more enjoyable than the original.
The twist here is that Jumanji the board game was left gathering dust so transformed itself into a video game in an attempt to be reawakened. A kid named Alex played it and got sucked into the game, never to be seen again. The battered old magical console then ended up on a shelf in the school basement. Of course, years later when four teens – geeky Spencer, football player Fridge, Instagram-addicted, shallow Bethany and quiet mouse Martha – discover the video game during detention, they plug it in and find themselves transported to the jungle setting of Jumanji. They are transformed into the bodies of their chosen avatars, too, so Spencer is suddenly a pumped-up hero (Johnson), Fridge is now a small weakling who can be killed by eating cake, Martha is now a Tomb Raider-esque heroine (complete with skimpy, impractical outfit) and, best of all, the vain Bethany is now, well, she’s Jack Black.
Together they have to work out the levels of the game, avoid the jungle dangers (man-eating hippos, that sort of thing) and dodge bad guy Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale). Of course, they all learn something meaningful about themselves along the way, but the best parts are the slick action sequences and the silly bits, such as the boys teaching Bethany how to pee with her new appendage (remember, she’s in a man’s body), and Martha beating the bad guys with some hilarious dance fighting (one of her avatar’s main strengths, it seems).
While the first Jumanji had the wonderful Robin Williams, this movie boasts not one but four skilled comic actors as its leads. Johnson is a hoot as the muscleman who is still a scaredy cat deep down, Hart and Black are often eye-wateringly funny, and best of all is Karen Gillan, displaying a gift for physical comedy (especially during a daft flirtation scene) only hinted at during her tenure on Doctor Who.
Together with director Jake Kasdan they deliver an engaging, sharply scripted and clever family adventure (though not for very little ones – see notes below) that’s so entertaining you’ll wish the Jumanji video game was available to buy for real.
Young children (under age 9) may be scared by the evil Van Pelt (Bobby Canavale), who has a scarred eye and occasionally has bugs crawling in and out of his ears and mouth.
There is some mild violence and an attack by a hippo that is played for comedic effect.
Some scenes are set in the jungle at night, which may scare very young viewers.
The film is a PG-13 in the US and a 12A in the UK – there is nothing in the movie that should scare children over the age of 10.
There is some mild language and sexual references.
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