When Spencer the nerd (Alex Wolff), Fridge the jock (Ser’Darius Blain), Bethany the self-centered (Madison Iseman), and Martha the aloof (Morgan Turner) are sent to the school’s basement for detention, they unwittingly open a portal into another world through a video game console.
Transported to the world of Jumanji, the four teens inhabit avatars in direct contrast to the real-world selves. Spencer, sickly and scared, becomes the muscle-bound explorer Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson). Fridge enters the game as the zoologist Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart), a diminutive researcher who acts as Bravestone’s sidekick and weapon holder. Bethany and Martha become Professor Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black) and Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), respectively. Where the former is now a portly man whose role is the group’s cartographer, the latter becomes the team’s hand-to-hand specialist and bombshell.
And because video game rules apply, all sorts of ridiculousness happens, and the result is an entertaining romp through the jungle where characters punch combatants into space while learning a little about living your last life to its fullest.
Written by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, and Jeff Pinkner, the script is intelligent and well-thought out. There’s humor in the right doses, and the freaky-Friday perspectives bring insight into the characters they host. Director Jake Kasdan paces the movie giving each character a chance to shine and interact, and the relationships that change and grow work towards a life-affirming ending with a great message for teens who may feel like they’re living in someone else’s body as they go through puberty.
The acting is great, and the chemistry between the video game cast reacts with intensity. Johnson and Hart are dynamic, and Gillan and Black are even better. Gillan takes on young Martha’s mannerisms and wears them as her own while Black takes full advantage of his role’s comedic outlets. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Black this inspired.
It’s a movie that surpasses its predecessor on most accounts. It’s exciting, funny, and family friendly. In an era of Hollywood movies where audiences are more jaded than ever and weary of sequels, reboots, and remakes, this one is an example of a sequel done right. It takes the original’s premise, reassembles it for a modern-day audience, and it adds some fresh ideas into the mix without destroying the memory of its forebear.