The recent string of sequels to 90s movies closed out 2017 with the release of “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” While I originally vowed to never see this film, my opinion was swayed by two simple words: Alex Wolff. If you read my review of Netflix’s “Death Note” from last semester, you know I firmly support Naked Brothers Band to this day. Also, Nat Wolff has yet to act in anything that makes use of the talent I believe he has. Yet, if there’s anyone who’s accomplishing everything I want Nat Wolff to be, surprisingly, it’s his younger brother Alex.
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” begins in 1996 when a father, trying to connect to his son, gifts him a cool board game that he found washed up on the shore. The son, thinking board games are lame, places it on his highest shelf. In the middle of the night, the boy is awakened by the sound of drums. He looks inside the board game to find a video game cartridge inside. Intrigued that he didn’t see it before, he pops it into his console. Suddenly, the shot changes to outside his house, where a green flash can be seen from the boy’s room.
Twenty years in the future, we meet Spencer (Alex Wolff), an anxious teenager who lives out his days playing videogames and writing papers for his ex-best friend, Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain). Their ruse is found out by the school and they are sentenced to detention. Joining them are Bethany (Madison Iseman), who made a Skype call in class, and Martha (Morgan Turner) who didn’t want to participate in school. In attempt to delay the chores they’ve been assigned, they decide to play a round of the old video game they found in the basement.
Next thing they know, they’ve crash-landed in a jungle, but not as themselves. No, Spencer has taken on the body of his avatar Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), as has everyone else. Fridge is now significantly smaller, as his avatar, Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart), isn’t very gifted in the height department. Martha has been turned into the female fighting machine Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). Bethany has definitively gone through the most change, as the “Shelly” in her avatar’s name, Dr. Shelly Oberon, stood for Sheldon (Jack Black). Together they must find and transport the “Jaguar’s Eye,” a precious crystal that controls Jumanji’s animals, back to the Jaguar statue.
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” isn’t a horrible movie, but it’s not the sequel I would have wanted had I wanted it in the first place. Being able to see the jungle where the animals originated and Alan was sucked into is a good idea. It was hilarious to watch the indestructible Rock be afraid of the littlest squirrel and not know how to talk to girls. Black, also, got to play against type as a socially savvy teenage girl. However, it wasn’t enough to make me like this film.
The original 1995 “Jumanji” was an adventure film, and the stakes kept it interesting the whole time. That movie was based on a children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg, who also helped adapt it for the screen. I couldn’t find anything about Chris Van Allsburg working on or even supporting this sequel. Also, the original had Robin Williams and I don’t think any sequel to a movie he’s been in will ever live up to the standards he set when he was alive.
There were a lot of plot holes in this film and the original. First, the game washed up on the shores of France at the end of the last film. Why is it back in Brantford? Secondly, why is Jumanji suddenly magical to the point where it transforms into a video game version? It also doesn’t make sense when Alan Parish was supposed to have lived in this jungle. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” attempted to be a modern retelling of a classic 90s movie, but ultimately failed. Maybe give Alex Wolff some more screen time next time and I’ll let some of the plot holes go. Overall rating: 5/10