Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (PG-13)

Action/Adventure 118 min. December 20, 2017
By Alan Scherstuhl
The new Jumanji movie is bigger and dumber than the previous, a feat considering the relentless clatter of the 1995 iteration. This time, the kids-to-be-harrowed -- bickering, single-trait high schoolers -- turn their noses up at the very idea of board games. Jumanji obliges, transmuting into a form they will find more appealing: a 16-bit video game cartridge.

Unable to resist retro-game tech, our bored heroes thunk this new-old Jumanji into a vintage console, select the characters they wish to play and then, ka-blammo, all get sucked into the game itself -- and into the bodies of their in-game avatars. The freshest element here is body-swap comedy, which finds a high school schlemiel (Alex Wolff) inhabiting man-mountain Dwayne Johnson, a selfie-obsessed popular girl (Madison Iseman) mired in the form of Jack Black and a cocksure football king (Ser'Darius Blain) who gets stuck as Kevin Hart. Johnson gets to yammer antsily, which is good for a couple of laughs. Black, pitching his voice high and complaining about being fat and middle-aged, attempts to find the inner-life-of-a-blonde cliche. Expect much spirited talk about penises.

A final teen, a bright but awkward young woman (Morgan Jeanette Turner), gets embodied by Karen Gillan, whose short-shorts and midriff-baring T-shirt are flimsily justified by the filmmakers -- Jake Kasdan and a boatload of credited writers -- as satire. Gillan, after all, is playing a '90s video-game heroine; the funniest scene involves this uncertain kid trying to pilot that body alluringly.

Rather than wild, the jungle here is about team-building and occasional action scenes whose gist you may get from the blur of movement. To describe it for another sentence would be to waste your time and mine.
Jake Kasdan Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale Chris McKenna, Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, Erik Sommers Sony Pictures

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