Review: Rock, Hart, Black can’t rescue clumsy ‘Jumanji’

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” makes the original “Jumanji” look like a towering cinematic achievement.

At the very least, the 1995 adventure made some semblance of sense in its own reality. This sequel/reboot can’t manage that much, and is overly convoluted for no reason.

“Welcome to the Jungle” concerns four high school stereotypes — a nerd, a jock, a babe, a rebel — who get sent to detention at high school. Within this “Breakfast Club” scenario, they stumble upon a video game of “Jumanji” from the mid-’90s Sega Genesis-era.

The kids get sucked into the game — hate when that happens! — where their avatars are misaligned with their personalities: The nerd morphs into the musclebound Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), the jock becomes the diminutive Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart), the babe is gender-swapped as Professor Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black) and the rebel is converted into the Lara Croft-like Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan, “Doctor Who”).

That’s fine, and the character swap has the stars playing against type. (Except for Kevin Hart, who pretty much plays Kevin Hart.) The issue becomes one of investment: The adult actors find themselves on a jungle quest that doesn’t really matter (is it supposed to?), while the kids behind them make superficial discoveries about themselves (outsiders can find love, and it helps if they look like the Rock and Karen Gillan.)

The action within the video game has no correlation to the way actual video games are played, it’s just a cheap way to wedge the jungle setting into the story. It’s why this “Jumanji” feels reverse engineered from spare parts that don’t go together.


(313) 222-2284


‘Jumanji: Welcome

to the Jungle’


Rated PG-13 for adventure action,

suggestive content and some language

Running time: 119 minutes