For a lot of people the word Jumanji makes us think of Robin Williams and his classic 1995 romp through the jungles of a board game that quite literally sucks you into its world, but of course being 2018 video games are all the rage with the kids, and so we have Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, where instead of some dumb board game we get a hip video game instead... once again with the same 'sucking you in and making you part of its world' thing.
The film makes this whole attitude clear early on when a boy in the '90s finds the Jumanji board game and quite literally says: "Who plays board games?" before tossing it aside. However, in the night it changes to a video game cartridge, at which point he's obviously very interested, although no prizes for guessing what happens to him once he boots it up though.
Fast forward to modern day and we have a ragtag group of high-schoolers - the jock, the nerd, the quiet girl, and the popular girl - who are all in detention for various reasons, at which point they find the game and boot it up, only to be sucked into the game. The only twist is that they each have the avatars they chose in the menus, so the nerdy guy is Dwayne 'I'll take any role' Johnson; the tall jock is Kevin Hart (much to his disappointment); the shy girl is a very scantily clad Karen Gillan; and the popular girl is... Jack Black.
The story isn't exactly going to win any awards, but then again it doesn't need to. From the start the film makes clear this is a rip-roaring yarn through a virtual jungle, and there are a few things like teen romance, slapstick humour (it's got Kevin Hart in after all), and Nick Jonas to spice things up. The cast all deliver on their roles really well too - the teenagers in mismatched bodies - but Jack Black is by far the most entertaining with his rendition of your stereotypical high school girl.
The villain is a pretty poor one in fairness, a cartoonishly over the top power-crazed fiend who wants the jewel of Jumanji (which our protagonists have to return to its rightful place to leave the game) for himself, showing up every now and then to grimace, but considering all his goons are trigger-happy thugs, it makes things a lot harder for the gang, especially since they only have three lives before they permanently perish.
Upon release eyebrows were raised over Karen Gillan's costume, considering it reveals a lot of flesh, but the whole point of that was that she's a video game avatar (Tomb Raider ring a bell?) and her real self is uncomfortable with this outfit too. It's not meant to be real, but a cartoonishly exaggerated character, and thus not meant to be taken seriously, just like Dwayne Johnson throwing people through walls, and Jack Black playing a girl.
All in all Jumanji is a fun and easy-to-watch film, with a lot of laughs, a lot of over-the-top action, and it's a nice modern reworking of the classic comedy. For a lot of people it won't hold a candle to Robin Williams's version, but to its credit it's not trying to and it offers its own appeal with a strong cast of four heroes that compliment each other nicely. It's particularly self-aware in its shift to video games as well, something that's very much appreciated.