None of us really asked or wanted a Jumanji sequel did we? There didn't feel like a massive need to revisit this world, to reboot it, to refresh this world for our times did there? Ultimately no there was no need really but thankfully no one listened and now we have a Jumanji sequel that entertains, provides laughs and deals with teenage angst with great aplomb.
Four teenagers, thrown together in a minor breakfast club style convenience in detention happen upon a game console, complete with a Jumanji game cartridge and luckily enough four controllers. Having been lectured by their headmaster on 'becoming who they need to be in our world rather than who they want to be' it is not long before they find themselves sucked into the game and have to save Jumanji from a new evil.
What follows is a series of action sequences, body swap jokes and CGI creatures that in other hands would leave a viewer flat, disinterested and contemplating setting up an actual board game just to have something to do.
However, Jumaji: Welcome to the Jungle is different and that is largely down to the foursome of Johnson, Black, Hart and Gillen (a great law firm name if ever there was one). There is a wonderful chemistry between the four stars and you sense that they are genuinely having fun within this nonsensical world. All four play their avatar really well with great physicality as well as maintaining a wonderful teenage awkwardness throughout. They seem to carry a great self awareness that teenagers themselves can hold, hyper aware of their appearances, behaviour and interactions with each other.
Kevin Hart provides a plethora of laughs and his chemistry with Dwayne Johnson is excellent (no surprise for fans of Central Intelligence). Johnson is as great an action hero as you could possible hope for in the times we live in, with an overwhelmingly warm charisma making him incredibly watchable, no matter what nonsensical chase sequence he finds himself in. Jack Black finds himself in the role of Bethany the most self absorbed, shallow member of the group. A wonderful physical comedian, Black excels in presenting the demeanour of a young Instagram loving , phone obsessed teen and certainly garnered the most laughter in our screening.
Karen Gillan plays Martha the slight awkward teen who finds herself in the game as Ruby Roundhouse, an expert in many martial arts and dance fighting. Her in game attire attracted many outraged tweets when the first shots from the film were released, but this is more than adequately addressed as she calls out the stupidity crying 'Why am I wearing half a shirt and short shorts in the JUNGLE?' The film makers are aware of how the appearance would be perceived and perhaps have intended to make a statement of how female characters within gaming are portrayed, there is after all more than a passing resemblance to Tomb Raider's Lara Croft in Gillen's attire.
The message at the heart of Jumanji is to not let who you are be defined by looks, athletic abilities or the number of Instagram likes you acquire. True joy is found in seeing the value in everyone and not judging books by their cover.
Jumaji: Welcome to the Jungle is filed with convenient plot contrivances and nonsensical CGI chase sequences and a level of predicability, but with a charismatic cast, warmth, fun and a good message at its core I am very pleased that a Jumanji sequel exists.