Remember the 1995 family hit “Jumanji” with the late great Robin Williams? It’s very difficult these days to get a good sequel to long ago hits. “Son of the Mask,” “Independence Day: Resurgence,” and “Ghostbusters” were all disasters; but “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is goofy fun.
You know the rules of the original. A character gets sucked into the game, until decades later, kids play, and eventually release that prisoned character. The board game has animals popping in their world, but when that becomes a video game, you come into its world.
The movie starts with four high school kids-Spencer (Alex Wolff), Bethany (Madison Iseman), Fridge (Ser-Darius Blain), and Martha (Morgan Turner)-placed in detention, and must clean out the basement, where they find the “Jumanji” video game. They play it, and get sucked into it with avatars, in the forms of movie stars.
The nerdy Spencer is the macho Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwyane Johnson), the football player Fridge is turned into the short zoologist Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart), the shy Martha is turned into the sexy commando Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), and the prettiest girl Bethany is turned into scientist Professor Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black), who is a man.
In order to get out of the game, and they each have three lives, they have to return a stolen green gem back to a jaguar statue. The villain who stole that is John Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale), who uses that gem to control the animals.
Parts of the movie are obvious like Nick Jonas as the kid who got sucked into the game back in 1996 (the year after the original “Jumanji” came out), or the love story between Spencer and Martha or Bravestone and Roundhouse. Still, the movie has laughs, thrills, and video game nostalgia. The supporting characters in the game repeat themselves (“Welcome to Jumanji” or “Are you lost?”), the three lives regenerate the characters, and the fights are just fun.
Johnson, Black, Hart, and Gillan also do swell jobs of playing high school kids transformed into movie stars, and they aren’t there because the ads told them to. The rules have changed, but not the enjoyment.