JUMANJI: Welcome to the Jungle is one of those odd films that forces movie reviewers on the fence when deciding whether or not to recommend what might be a crowd pleaser. Costumes, makeup, visual arts, and cinematography are top notch. Without going overboard the production values are above par. The story is clever, serving as an updated sequel to the original film, this time allowing four students serving time in detention to dust off an old video game console and find themselves drawn into the screen avatars they chose. Forced to combat lethal obstacles with programable skills, the four misfits shelve their differences and apply teamwork to restore a precious gem atop a giant statue. But for all the lavish scenery and verbal fisticuffs, the film falls flat as a result of only two flaws: a plot we have seen repeated too often and a talented cast who tries their best to work with the material they have.
Kevin Hart plays Kevin Hart in this movie — and in every movie, he plays the starring or co-starring role — which is not saying much except that his character works well for comic relief. Dwayne Johnson spends half of the film playing a teenage dweeb in the body-swap routine that gets old real quick. After establishing himself in the new role of Dr. Smolder Bravestone, he should have spent the remainder of the film playing the muscle-bound hero we have come to enjoy. Jack Black plays the role of a young woman who suddenly becomes aware that she has to live a life without a smartphone, but the comedy wears thin after the first ten minutes. Karen Gillan might be the only standout performance in the film, providing a visual screen test of almost every emotion necessary for casting directors to take note.
If you saw the movie trailer and was amused by what you saw, then you will be pleased to know that the film is as predictable as what you expect before the opening credits. And while the cast seems to be chatting through the grapevine about making another sequel, one has to wonder if there was friction behind the cameras due to unhealthy pauses in scenes that slow the pace. Maybe it was bad editing, maybe the entire scenario has gotten old by this time. Had this movie been produced and released a couple years following the Robin Williams classic, this would have been a bigger blockbuster than it is today.