Jack Black steals the show in an entertaining and inventive, albeit crude sequel
If Hollywood is frequently guilty of peddling inferior ideas for sequels, it's a criticism that can't be levelled at Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Joe Johnston's 1995 film Jumanji saw a magical board game unleash chaos into the world; Jake Kasdan's follow-up begins as a young man finds that very same game half-buried on a beach. Overnight it re-generates into a video game cartridge, and when he turns it on it sucks him in.
20 years later, four high school teens in detention unearth it; no sooner have they selected their characters than they too are drawn into the jungle terrain of 'Jumanji'. What's more, just like a video game, each has three lives, a selection of special skills and there are increasingly difficult 'levels' to complete, involving the safety of a giant emerald. Gamers will certainly get a kick out of the script.
The twist here is that the adolescent quartet become the avatars they've chosen. So Bethany, much to her horror, morphs into middle-aged cartographer Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black). The bookish Martha and Spencer become the high-kicking Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) and the super-strong Dr Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson). Finally, 'Fridge' is reborn as Bravestone's sidekick Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart), in a reversal of their high school dynamic.
Facing everything from motorbike-riding heavies to jungle creatures and deadly traps, there are plenty of obstacles to overcome before it can be considered 'Game Over'. But it's really the humour that propels Jumanji along, notably from Black, who has a ball as he gets in touch with his inner prom queen. Johnson also shows his adeptness for physical comedy in a story that's been developed impressively. It will be a little too crude for some but Welcome to the Jungle is still heaps of fun.
General release from Wed 20 Dec.