At this point, I don’t think anyone can argue that Dwayne Johnson has succeeded in Hollywood just as he did in the WWE. I mean, in 2017 he starred in 3 movies that made over $2 BILLION combined at the box office, granted one of those movies was Baywatch so it was really the other 2 movies that made up that amount. One of those movies was today’s movie, the sequel to 1995’s Jumanji. Now when I first heard that a sequel was being made, I will admit that I was a little hesitant to get on board with it, as Robin Williams really made the original movie special. Still, they were assembling a good cast to take part in it and the premise sounded pretty good so I decided to give it a shot. Needless to say, I enjoyed it and decided to buy Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle when it came out on video, which is what brings us to today.
The plot: In 1996, a man is jogging along the beach in Brantford, New Hampshire when he discovers the Jumanji board game buried in the sand. He takes it home to his son Alex Vreeke, who sets the game aside and continues playing the video game he had paused. That night, a strange green glow appears in Alex’s room and the drums starts beating, causing Alex to wake up. When he examines the board game, he discovers that the board has changed into a video game cartridge, which he decides to play and he ends up getting sucked into the game. 20 years later, Spencer Gilpin is writing an essay for his friend Anthony “Fridge” Johnson so that Fridge can stay on the football team and after he finishes, he gets a text from Fridge telling him to meet at the “Freak house”. When they get there, Spencer hands Fridge the paper and tries to invite him to hang out during the weekend but Fridge blows him off and Spencer feels hurt at the fact that they don’t hang out anymore. Suddenly, Spencer is startled by the appearance of Old Man Vreeke, who tells him to loiter somewhere else. During school, Bethany Walker is making a video call during a quiz and ends up getting detention. As Spencer is in gym class, he sees Martha Kaply get detention for not participating and thinks she is “bad ass” when he is suddenly called into the principal’s office. When he gets there, he find Fridge in the office along with Principal Bentley and Miss Mathers, Fridge and Spencer’s history teacher. Miss Mathers says she knows that Spencer wrote the paper as it has several sentences and key words that he used in other papers and Spencer tries to pass it off as all his doing but they both end up getting detention. Principal Bentley takes them to the school’s basement and has them removing staples from old magazines so they can be recycled, telling them that they will finish on Saturday what they don’t get done that afternoon. As Spencer and Martha work on removing the staples, Bethany keeps trying to get a cell signal on her phone while Fridge looks around the room. When he finds an old video game console with the Jumanji cartridge in it, he shows it to Spencer, who hooks it up to a TV. After turning it on, they see the character select screen and when Fridge tries to pick Jefferson “Seaplane” McDonough, he finds he can’t choose that character so he chooses Franklin “Mouse” Finbar. Stephen chooses Dr. Smolder Bravestone and then he and Fridge convince Bethany and Martha to play. After Bethany chooses Professor Shelly Oberon and Martha chooses Ruby Roundhouse, they press start only to have the sound of drums and jungle noises fill the room. When the game system starts sparking, Spencer unplugs it but it turns back on, then sucks all four kids into the game. The four kids fall out of the sky into a jungle and as they try to figure out what happened, they discover that they are all in different bodies. Spencer realizes that they have somehow become the avatars they chose in the game. with Spencer being a muscular explorer, Fridge being a dimunative man with an oversized backpack, Martha is a martial arts expert, while Bethany is an overweight middle-aged man. Martha discovers a strange tattoo on her arm, with Spencer and Fridge saying they have the same tattoo, but before they can figure out what it means, Bethany is eaten by a hippo. As Spencer, Fridge, and Martha react in shock over what happened, they see Bethany fall out of the sky, seemingly unharmed. When more hippos chase after them, the group runs away from them until they encounter Nigel, who tells them to get in his car. As they drive away, Nigel introduces himself and tells them he is glad they have arrived as they are the only ones that can break the curse. When Spencer asks about the curse, Nigel tells him to read the letter he sent them and Spencer suddenly finds a letter in his hand. As he reads it, the four kids find themselves in a cutscene within the game, where they see Van Pelt, Spencer’s character’s former partner now turned bitter rival. Van Pelt stole the Jaguar’s Eye, a magical emerald that is essential to Jumanji’s well being and allows the user to control the wild life in Jumanji. Nigel, who was Van Pelt’s guide, stole the jewel from Van Pelt, then wrote the letter to “Bravestone” asking for his help. Back in the present, Nigel hands the gem to Spencer, then tells them that the only way for them to return home is to finish the game and lift the curse. After Nigel hands Spencer a map, he tells him to head to the bazaar to find the missing piece, then drives off. Spencer manages to access his player menu, learning his character’s strengths and weaknesses, and the others do the same for their characters. Spencer can’t see anything on the map but Bethany, whose character is an expert in cartography, is able to see it and tells them what it says and where they should go. Suddenly, they are attacked by a motorcycle gang and they manage to get away by jumping off a cliff and swim to shore. As they recover from what happened, Martha reveals that she had been shot and suddenly disappears, only to drop down from the sky onto Fridge. As Martha gets off of him, Spencer looks at her tattoo and notices it is now 2 bars instead of three and tells them that it is their life bar. When they ask what happens if they run out of lives, Spencer says it means game over, and that they could die for real in the game. Meanwhile, the motorcycle gang return to Van Pelt’s camp and when he learns that Bravestone and the others escaped, he says he will have every creature and soldier in Jumanji search for them, telling a vulture to go find them. Elsewhere, the group starts heading out, with Martha and Bethany starting to bond a little over their situation. Meanwhile, Fridge and Spencer are arguing about why they are no longer friends and Fridge gets mad and pushes Spencer off a cliff. When Spencer returns, he and Fridge fight some more before Spencer stops Fridge from falling off a cliff, telling the group they can’t waste lives and have to work together. The group reaches the bazaar and start to look for the map but when they hear a man calling out rations, Bethany and Martha go over to get some food. Fridge gets some as well but when he learns that it is pound cake, he suddenly explodes as one of his character’s weaknesses is cake. After Fridge reappears, a small girl approaches them and leads them to where the missing piece is. Inside the room, they find a large basket and when Spencer lifts the lid, a snake pops out. Fridge recognizes it as a black mamba and Bethany, thinking of what the kid said, thinks it must be a staring contest. Spencer lifts the lid and Bethany tries to stare down the snake but the snake hisses at her, then lunges at Martha. Spencer manages to catch it before it can bite her and Fridge defangs the snake to make it harmless. Bethany reaches into the basket and finds a wrapped package containing an elephant token and a note saying “when you see me, begin the climb”. Suddenly, Van Pelt and his soldiers show up and Spencer begins fighting them but when they are about to get shot, a masked figure throws a smoke bomb into the bazaar, then leads the group into a sewer tunnel. As the man leads them through the tunnels, they realize that he is the 5th player and after making it out of the tunnel, he introduces himself as Alex. Alex takes them to the tree house that he has been living in, which was Alan Parish’s home when he was stuck in Jumanji. Spencer asks Alex how long he had been there and he tells them at least a few months, then explains how he couldn’t get past the transportation shed, which is the next level in the game, and when he was down to 1 life left, he stopped trying. Spencer tries to convince him to work with them to finish the game and Bethany realizes that Alex was the missing piece they were supposed to find, as they now have a complete team. Alex takes them to the transportation shed and as they try to figure out how to distract the guards, Bethany suggests having Martha flirt with them and after they convince her to try, Bethany works on teacher her how to flirt. Alex finds a side door and as Martha goes to flirt, Bethany joins the others to sneak inside when they learn that Alex thinks it is 1996. Realizing that Alex is Alex Vreeke, they tell him that he has been in the game for 20 years. Martha manages to distract the guards long enough for the others to sneak inside but when Fridge knocks over some motorcycles, she is forced to beat the guards unconscious before they can investigate. As Van Pelt’s men return to the shed, Alex gets scared about flying, as his previous attempts didn’t work out well but Martha and the others convince him to fly the helicopter. They manage to escape from the shed but some debris from a missile damages the rotors and they find themselves falling down into a canyon. As a stampede of albino rhinos starts chasing after them, Alex says they can’t fly up until the piece is repaired. Spencer climbs out and fixes the rotor but as they are flying out of the canyon, Fridge accidentally drops the gem. Circling back around, they find the rhinos forming a protective ring around the gem and Spencer shoves Fridge out of the helicopter to act as a distraction for the rhinos while he grabs the gem, then saves Fridge when he dies and respawns. As they land the helicopter, Alex is stung by a mosquito, which is his weakness, and starts to die but Bethany does CPR and sacrifices one of her lives to give to Alex. As they rest for a bit, Spencer and Martha admit that they have feelings for each other and start to kiss when Fridge interrupts them to tell them that he found the jaguar statue. As it starts getting dark, they reach the path for the jaguar statue and realize it is most likely a trap. Seeing the elephant statue nearby, Spencer thinks it means he should climb the trees to get to the statue but he is scared by a squirrel and falls to the ground, where a jaguar kills him. After he respawns, he talks with Fridge and tells him that he can’t do this but Fridge convinces him that he can and as Van Pelts men get closer, he comes up with a plan. While Martha works on slowing the men down, Bethany, Fridge, and Alex work on distracting the jaguars so Spencer can reach the statue. Martha ends up being snagged by a rope dragged behind a motorcycle but Spencer saves her, then he uses the motorcycle to continue towards the statue but when he reaches it, he finds Van Pelt there holding Bethany hostage. As Alex and Martha join Spencer, Van Pelt demands that he hand over the gem but Spencer says that he doesn’t have it, just as Fridge appears atop an elephant, holding the gem. Van Pelt has the jaguars attack Fridge but the elephant bats them away. Van Pelt then fires at Fridge but Bethany disrupts his aim, causing the bullet to miss but the elephant gets scared and causes Fridge to toss the gem up the hill. As Bethany and Alex struggle with Van Pelt, Martha tells Spencer to head for the statue and she will get the gem to him. Spencer rides up the hill and Martha looks for the gem and finds it in the middle of a field full of black mambas. Martha manages to get the gem just as Van Pelt appears and demands she hand it over but Martha allows a mamba to bite her while she is holding the gem, killing her, and she then respawns and falls to the ground, passing the gem to Spencer as she does. Spencer places the gem in the jaguar’s eye but nothing happens until Bethany remembers that you have to call out Jumanji, and they all scream it out, causing Van Pelt to fall apart into a mass of rats and insects. As the group celebrates lifting the curse, Nigel shows up and says their time is done in Jumanji. Nigel then says goodbye to everyone and shakes their hand, causing them all to fade away into the gem. When he gets to Martha and Spencer, Spencer asks her if they could stay there, as he likes the person he is in the game, but MArtha tells him to be the person in the real world and come home, and Spencer reluctantly follows her. The kids all find themselves back in the school’s basement but there is no sign of Alex. As they head to the Vreeke house, they find it is no longer rundown but in good condition and decorated for Christmas. Just then, a car pulls up and a family emerges to visit Old Man Vreeke but as the man goes to get the Christmas tree off his van, he sees the kids and approaches them. As He names them all, they realize that it is Alex and he says that he is happy to see them again and says that the game sent him back to 1996, allowing him to live his life. He then introduces them to his baby, Andy, and tells them his older daughter is named Bethany after the girl that saved his life. The next day, Spencer and Fridge show up at school, their friendship restored, and see Bethany trying to convince her friend to go backpacking with her. As Bethany joins them, they see Martha approaching and Spencer approaches her and kisses her. Suddenly, they all hear the sound of drums beating and they take the game out back and Fridge smashes it with a bowling ball.
Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle fared much better with the critics than it’s predecessor, holding a certified fresh rating of 76% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle uses a charming cast and a humorous twist to offer an undemanding yet solidly entertaining update on its source material.” In a bizarre coincidence, both Jumanji films have a connection to Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Director Jake Kasdan, who directed Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle, is the son of Lawrence Kasdan, who was the writer for Raiders, while Joe Johnston, who directed the original Jumanji, worked on the visual effects. The movie was a box office hit, earning $962.1 million off of a $90 million budget with a sequel scheduled to be released in 2019 with the 4 stars all returning for the sequel.
This was such a funny movie to watch and definitely a great sequel to the original. The acting was good, with all 4 of the main characters doing great jobs in their roles, but Jack Black honestly stole the show with his portrayal of Bethany. The story was pretty good, doing a great job of revamping the game to a more modern age, by turning it into a video game instead of a board game. I really liked how they acknowledged the original movie, by showing the house that Alan lived in during his 26 years and making it a new safehouse for Alex while he was trapped there. I also liked how the different characters showed a lot of character growth throughout their adventure, taking some of the aspects of their avatars with them when they returned to the real world. The one thing I didn’t really like was how they had Van Pelt portrayed. In the original movie, he was the quintessential “great white hunter”, but in this one he was more of a mercenary that was essentially nothing more than a collection of rodents and insects. That was honestly disappointing. The special effects were really good and while I liked the fact that they showed Jumaji as it’s own world, I wish they had more animals in it more consistently, instead of just a scene or two every now and then. A great movie that did a fantastic job of expanding upon the world that was created back in 1995 and is well worth watching.
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5