"Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" presents itself as a standalone sequel to the 1995 Robin Williams adventure and, normally a long gap between sequels results in the case of too little, too late. However, fortunately in this case, this follow-up doesn’t quite hit game-over status.
The movie opens 20 years after the events of the original with the game itself metamorphosing from a board game into a video game. Four high school teens, including a brain, an athlete, a princess and a bookworm are forced to spend detention together cleaning out an old computer room. Yes, this does sound like "The Breakfast Club," only this one has magical twist.
Once at work cleaning, they stumble upon an old video game called Jumanji. And, what a shock, they end up playing and get sucked inside its jungle landscapes. There are also drastic changes to their bodies: The brain is now Dwayne Johnson, the athlete is Kevin Hart, the bookworm is Karen Gillian, and the princess is Jack Black.
Yes, the game introduces the concept of inter-gender role-play. For the most part, Black’s performance is the driving force that keeps this sequel from falling apart. I’m not about to go into what happens when Black’s character discovers the awesomeness of being able to go to the bathroom as a guy.
While in Jumanji, the students embark on a dangerous quest to restore a jewel to a giant statue in order to get home. Of course, a video-game movie wouldn’t be one without a nasty villain on their trail and this movie gives us Russel Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale). That’s a nod that fans of the original movie will surely get.
Joining them on their journey is another guy who also got lost in the game (Nick Jonas) who has acquired expertise and skills that will help the foursome out. Just wait and see what he does with a helicopter.
Johnson, Hart and Black display terrific chemistry, which combines funny dialogue, clever and inventive set pieces. It manages to keep the charm and spirit of its original source material.
Having said that, it may replace the nostalgia factor some have for the original film. It is more likely to dissolve from your memory bank once leaving the theater. But there are worse ways to spend a December afternoon, I guess.
(Rated PG-13 for adventure violence, suggestive content, and some language.)
Hall is a syndicated columnist in South Georgia.