By Ryan Keating-Lambert

★★★☆☆

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is your standard run-of-the-mill action/adventure film. Good for the school holidays, and good as a stand alone film. As a sequel though, it strays from the original.

A group of teenage misfits are sucked into a video game while cleaning out their high school basement during detention. After taking on the form of the game’s characters, they embark on a dangerous journey through the jungles of Jumanji.

First of all, this is nothing like the original film at all. Although Welcome to the Jungle does refer back to Alan Parrish (Robin Williams) from the 1995 film, the references more or less stop there.

The original Jumanji was a work of CGI and Robin Williams greatness. It was funny, playful, adventurous, and quite dark – the film really touched on family troubles and daddy issues, and people actually die. It was the kids film that wasn’t for kids, and that’s why kids loved it. Welcome to the Jungle is very much a kids film. Specifically, a teen film.

Director Jake Kasdan (Sex Tape, Bad Teacher) delivers an action film that I believe, for once in my life, actually needed more action. Welcome to the Jungle’s plot is simple and its villain nothing special – Bobby Canavale’s explorer version of ‘Van Pelt’ doesn’t have much of a character to work with nor does he compare to Jonathan Hyde’s presence in the first film. The levels of the game are also fairly easy and infrequent. In fact, majority of the time they’re just standing around the jungle fighting or trying to cope with their new bodies.

The film is nevertheless entertaining and young adults and kids will get a kick out of its unlikely heroes, especially Kevin Hart’s zoologist Franklin ‘Moose’ Finbar, whose weaknesses include ‘cake’. Dwayne Johnson, like in the very poorly-received Baywatch, is given another chance to make fun of himself here with Dr Bravestone, and more or less succeeds.

Shot on location in Hawaii, Welcome to the Jungle offers up some ravishing jungle landscapes. Colourful, but hardly what I’d imagined after Robin Williams’ terrifying description of the place in the first movie. There’s also a lack of deadly creatures and animals in this film, compared to the first where we were treated with a creepy new threat for almost every roll of the dice… and those monkeys? I thought they’d at least get some kind of cameo.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is regardless, a decent school-holiday movie that most will enjoy. It’s going to give the franchise a whole new generation of fans, and I’m sure there’ll be another one soon enough. Think The Breakfast Club but with a whole lot more cheese, and palm trees.

Photo: Empire

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