Every so often, someone decides it is time to start up a franchise. Rather than a reboot or a remake, when they announced Jumanji (starring that Robin Willims-esque Dwayne the Rock Johnson) it was decided that they would make a sequel. The film clearly establishes itself as set in the same universe as the Robin Williams movie late in the film.
The film opens with a jogger finding the board game on a beach. He gives it to his teenage son Alex. The young man sets it aside. That night he is awoken by beating drums. He opens up the box to find, instead of a board-game, a video game cartridge. He puts it in and disappears. The film picks up 22 years later. Alex is the town legend, his father and house the stuff of scary stories.
Spencer is a nerd who gets in trouble for doing football player classmate Fridge’s homework. Their teacher recognizes that Spencer has plagiarized themselves. At the same time, popular and pretty Bethany is in trouble for talking on her cell phone during a test and Martha is in trouble for talking back to her gym teacher. The four get assigned to detention, which will involve them cleaning up a mess in the school basement.
The kids stumble upon an old video game system and decide to give the game Jumanji a try. They find themselves transported into the game, which they then find out that they must play to the end if they want to get out. This is a reversal of the first film, where the game broke out into the real world. Here not only are they in the video game world, they are video game avatars. Spencer finds himself as the muscular and heroic Smolder Bravestone. Fridge is the diminutive zoologist Mouse Finbar. Martha is shocked to find herself looking a bit like Laura Croft fighter Ruby Roundhouse. And Bethany gets the huge shock of being the middle aged Dr. Shelly Oberon (which she assumed a woman, only to find she is a man).
The film has a lot of fun with the new video game approach. Everybody has three bars on their arms representing lives, resulting in some amusing moments when they end up regenerating. There is also the sendups of video game tropes. Most notably, one people have somehow been missing because they have been reacting to single still photos and ignoring the context. Karen Gillan’s Ruby Roundhouse is a sendup of the hot female fighter video game characters. She questions very quickly what is up with such a ridiculous outfit. Admittedly, they could have had her change, as at least one scene shows her putting a shirt on to cover herself. But the film is on the side of the folks who jumped on how she is dressed.
The plot is thin…they literally are just trying to get a jewel to a statue to lift the curse of Jumanji. Which puts the focus squarely on the characters. And thankfully, Johnson, Gillan, Black and Hart are all entertaining in their roles. Fridge is frustrated by the reversal to a character who is not very athletic and has the weakness of cake.
Bethany, of course, is pained both by her appearance and lack of access to a phone. All four have lessons to learn, but it is mostly the spectacle of events and jokes that makes this film fun.
I admit, I was not expecting a lot out of this one, but I really had a good time. This is a bit more aimed at older audiences with some juvenile humor. But it still works pretty well to be amusing and exciting.