Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a stand-alone sequel to the original Jumanji movie. It follows five kids after they get sucked into a video game that that used to be a board game. Once there, they must conquer obstacles and survive to return home.
In the beginning—1996—the board game Jumanji was found on the beach and taken home to a kid who says “who plays board games anymore?” and goes back to his video game. So in the middle of the night the game changes itself into a game cartridge. The hapless kid puts it in his console and is never seen again.
Beginning again in 2016, we have Spencer the geek, Fridge the jock, Bethany the dumb blonde, and Martha the introvert all getting detention for various reasons. While in the school basement they come across a game and decide, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, to check it out. After choosing their player characters they get sucked into the game and reappear with in the bodies of said player characters. Spencer is now buff archeologist, Fridge is his puny sidekick, Bethany is an overweight male cartographer, and Martha is a sexy commando. Hilarity ensues , along with danger.
After getting their mission statement from a non-player character guide, the group gets dropped off with an incomplete map and and an enormous green gem, and left to their own devices. Their quest is to take the green gem and replace it in a giant jaguar statue—and by giant, I mean building-sized—before villain NPC Van Pelt can reclaim it. Also, Van Pelt is possessed by the power of the gem and can summon animals to do his bidding. Along the way, the meet the fifth player character and have to inform him he’s been missing for twenty years, not a few months.
The ending of the movie was touching—Spencer and Fridge become friends again, Bethany wants to go backpacking, Spencer and Martha hook up in a sweet awkward way. And then they all drop a bowling ball on the video game. It was perfect.
Both sets of actors, adult and teens, do a good job of portraying their characters. There’s a real sense of continuity from actor to actor, which is commendable. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle doesn’t have the same pathos that the original had but that’s ok. And the special effects were all spot on. Though you’re never in doubt the kids will all make it home—this is a kids’ movie after all—it’s fun seeing how exactly they pull everything off.