© 2023 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Movie Review: 'Jumanji'

I’ve seen a lot of high-minded movies this year: A Ghost Story, Darren Aronofsky’s mother!... even Blade Runner 2049 dealt in some very lofty themes. So I decided to close out the year by going in the exact opposite direction—I decided it was time for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

Thankfully, I got what I wanted: This movie is a lot of fun. It’s dumb fun, in some cases very dumb fun, but it made me laugh, it’s got plenty of excitement, and best of all, it knows exactly what kind of movie it is. It’s not pretending to be anything other than a goofy tongue-in-cheek adventure, starring people who clearly had a great time making it. And after such a heavy year, why would you ask for much more?

This is a sequel to the 1995 film Jumanji, itself an adaptation of the book by Chris Van Allsburg, although the setup here is slightly different. In this case, four teenagers are sentenced to detention, Breakfast Club-style, and while there, they come across a video game console containing a game cartridge called Jumanji. No, this doesn’t make any sense, except to set the story in motion, so just go with it. Once they start up the game, each of the four is sucked into the game itself, waking up in the jungles of Jumanji with the bodies of avatars, with their own particular strengths and weaknesses that will require them to work together in order to pass each stage and win the game.

And most of the rest of the movie takes place with the kids in these new bodies, played by a cast with enough charisma to choke a horse: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Jack Black, comedian Kevin Hart, and relative newcomer Karen Gillan. Much of the comedy comes from the teens trying to adapt to their new bodies, some of which are VERY different from their real-life bodies, and making use of their newfound special powers as they travel through Jumanji and, hopefully, find their way back home.

As I said, it’s not exactly heady stuff. But it’s a good time, and that’s good enough, and if you’re willing to let go and just have fun, Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle, is a delightful way to end 2017.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.