In the constant pursuit for a money-spinning franchise,
The plot here feels delightfully simple. Where once Jumanji was an evil board game spitting out jungle creatures into the real world, now it is a computer game with an expansive jungle to explore. A group of high school teenagers - the jock, the social media queen, the shy geek, and the nerd - stumble across it in detention and are sucked into the world. Here, as their avatars in the game, they must complete a quest and return home before their lives run out. It's a hybrid of Freaky Friday, The Breakfast Club and Indiana Jones, and it all manages to hold together rather well.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is an easy watch, almost scientifically engineered to be a no-brains festive treat. At its core it trades admirably successfully on the natural charisma of its lead stars. Johnson may lack acting prowess but he is a charming action lead, very game to send up his own credentials. Hart only really has one comedic mode but here he perfectly fits the diminutive avatar for the jock of the group. And he certainly has great chemistry with Johnson, first demonstrated in Central Intelligence. Black is in Goosebumps-mode here, successfully stealing a number of scenes from his stars and clearly having a hoot as he does. And Gillian once again shows why she has had continued success where former assistants of the Doctor usually do not. She's fun in a mostly regressive part, a fact the film seems aware.
The film is at its best when it shows a spark of playfulness. Some of the humour of
Did the world need another Jumanji movie? Probably not. Does the film work surprisingly well? Yes. Will you remember it in a week's time? Highly unlikely. Does this matter? No. Here is a film to which you can turn your brain off over the festive period, a film to just enjoy.