In a world filled with reboots, sequels, prequels, spin-offs and re-interpretations it seems no film is safe. It seems as though our childhood films that we hold so closely to our hearts can’t just be left alone and stand for themselves. Instead, studios capitalize on already established names to bring in audience. In some instances, like “Creed,” it ends up being a good movie, but with others like “Baywatch,” it turns out to be gimmickier than telling a meaningful story. “Jumanji” unfortunately got caught up in all this reboot commotion and now “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” a sequel that hasn’t been asked for since 2014, is in theaters.
What new aspect could they bring to such a classic movie? What could set it apart, make it new, make it a worthwhile experience? This time, instead of it being a board game “because who plays board games anymore,” it’s a video game, but in the form of an old vintage Nintendo. Instead of the game affecting them in real life, it sucks them in. Which fans of the old movie might enjoy, we finally get to see the jungle, Alan (Robin Williams) lived in for all the years he was trapped in the board game.
The film’s plot has absolutely nothing to do with the original film aside from the name of the game and its nod to the original board game. This time, it’s a bunch of high schoolers who come from different social circles dropped in situations where they are the opposite of their actual selves. Example: the nerdy character played by Alex Wolff is Dwayne Johnson’s character in the game and the hot chick played by Madison Iseman is Jack Black’s character in the game.
The original “Jumanji” is a lot darker than it was marketed to be. Essentially, one rich kid is sucked into a board game, goes missing for 25 years. His dad loses the company, his friend, Sarah Whittle who was playing the game with him got cast out by the town. When he is found and released, it’s by two kids whose parents just died. The ending is happy but there was still a lot of drama underneath the comedy.
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is more of an adventure comedy that focuses on the extravaganza of its action scenes rather than telling the story itself, losing the spirit of the original completely. That doesn’t mean the sequel doesn’t have its ups. At its face value of being entertainment solely for escapism purposes it worked, because watching the Rock, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan run around a jungle with video game powers was enjoyable. None of it packed the emotional punch of the original, but it still makes you smile.
There is one thing though, that the first “Jumanji” will always have over the sequel – the immense star power of a young Kirsten Dunst. Robin Williams undoubtedly makes the movie a classic, but a main character is only as good as his supporting actors allow him to be. Kirsten Dunst kills it in her role. Stealing scenes from the moment she walks on camera, faking the realtor lady out for pure amusement. Throughout the movie, she elevates every scene she is in. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” just can’t get on that level, plain and simple.
All in all, “Jumanji” will ultimately stand the test of time and be remembered as a classic, while “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” will be tacked on to the original with some double feature DVD set sold at Walmart and fall into the category of remakes that just weren’t that special.