Reel Talk film review: 'Jumanji 2' rolls the dice, lands an 8

Courtesy of Sony   

For better or worse, there's been a recent uptick in Hollywood focused on bringing reboots, rehashes and continuations of movies and TV shows that captivated audiences decades prior to the big screen.

In some cases, it's worked (Stephen King's "It," Disney's live-action "Beauty and the Beast," Netflix's love letter to the 80s in "Stranger Things"), and it hasn't in others ("Baywatch," "CHiPs" and 2016's "Ben-Hur"). Thankfully, "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" does justice to the film that came 22 years prior.

Now, how the film succeeds in the same universe the late Robin Williams' character disappeared to might not appeal to everyone – instead of being sucked into the board game that Alan Parrish did in fictitious 1969, the game has taken the form of a retro video game console that brings its players to the unforgiving jungle world of Jumanji – but there's more to it than that. In addition to bringing the world of Jumanji to life (instead of bringing Jumanji to New Hampshire), the movie makes fun of several video game cliches that have taken shape over the years.

Add the star-studded cast who makes up the in-game characters, and "Jumanji 2" is able to overcome its simple plot and deliver an enjoyable experience to moviegoers.

What I liked

• Actors and actresses played their antitheses extremely well. It was already a good idea to have four different personalities – the high school nerd, the dumb jock, the glitzy and ditzy millenial and the quiet girl who lacks confidence and keeps to herself – collide with video game characters who they don't match with. 

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson portrayed Spencer, a nerd stuck in a professional wrestler's body, well; Kevin Hart was vulnerable as Fridge, a football player now two feet shorter and lacking his physical skills; Jack Black nailed his role as Bethany, who was always wanting her phone back or gasping at the sight of any attractive men in the area; and Karen Gillan was convincing as Martha, who needed the body of a Lara Croft-type to be drawn out of her shell. And they were all funny doing it.

•The movie was able to escape some deserved criticism by passing it off as a parody of video games that lack in story. Was the villain one-dimensional and had a questionable backstory? Yes, but a majority of those found in story modes and campaigns across different genres of video games have as well.

Did the overuse of NPCs (non-playable characters), who are limited in what information they can give, bog down the potential "Jumanji" had? Yes, but all NPCs get old after a while – that's why gamers might be inclined to spam the A button and skip the conversation. There was even a joke about a sudden in-game cutscene that came without warning.

What I didn't like:

• For the brief time the movie didn't trap the high schoolers in the game, I wish it had. The setup and finish for the plot set in Brantford, New Hampshire, was largely uninspired and lacked any meaning or comedic value. As soon as all four characters were doomed to spend detention together, I was ready for them to be transported to the virtual world, for who they were in reality had little chemistry (It seemed the rest of the sellout crowd at my showing felt the same way; there wasn't much laughter during those scenes).

Reason to watch:

The cast, which also included less screen time for Nick Jonas as an in-game character, provided a lot of laughs and didn't do anything to bring shame to the world of the 1995 original; in fact, there's just enough tie-ins to the world of Alan Parrish to connect one movie into the other without forcing the issue.

Rating:

The movie is rated PG-13 and had a decent amount of action, violence (without gore) and foul language. How safe you think this movie might be for kids depends on how comfortable you are with them hearing certain curse words, but the violence is nothing to worry about.

My score: 80/100

Tim Ahrens is a member of the Stillwater News Press’ weekly movie podcast “Reel Talk” and can be reached at tahrens@stwnewspress.com.

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