There's something to be said for some simple, mindless fun, and "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" offers that in spades.
It's unlikely that "Jumanji" will surprise you, and the sequel wraps up a little too neatly (as its predecessor did), but it's a fun romp led by actors charming enough to take on any situation, no matter how ridiculous.
The movie sounded like something that would be a disaster when it was first announced, but the sequel, like the movie's game itself, adapted to modern times to provide something new. Instead of a board game, players are transported through a gaming system to the world of Jumanji.
Though it cuts out on the real-world shenanigans of the Jumanji animals taking over a small town - and it gives an easy opportunity to cast big name actors and comedians as the game's characters - it's a fresh take on the story that saves it from treading any familiar water.
With the new setup for the story and the game, there's quite a bit of opportunity for new gags. Those who have played video games before, especially on older gaming consoles, may appreciate the humor more than other audiences. There's conversation difficulty with non-playable characters, cut scenes and particularly laughable strengths and weakness for the players. The film makes a good balance from making repeat jokes for the strengths of smoldering intensity and dance fighting without overusing either of them.
And while it's hard to keep a movie like "Jumanji" grounded, it still manages to give its characters "real-life" reactions to gaming situations and bonds the team together in a way that doesn't make it seem forced.
Most of the actors get to play with something new as they embody the teenage characters. Dwayne Johnson gets some comedic moments when frightened of noises or small animals, Karen Gillan can play against type as someone who doesn't know how to charm a single soul, and Jack Black hams it up as a teenage girl while also trying to give her character a journey of self-discovery.
Of the four, only Kevin Hart mostly plays himself. And while Hart is still funny, his character doesn't get to do or learn much aside from it's OK to be friends with someone who is not considered cool.
Sure, not all of the jokes or gags work out, but enough of them do to keep the audience laughing during an entertaining action-packed flick. The movie is self-aware of what it's trying to do (and the benefits of who it cast), and pokes fun of itself enough to make it a worthwhile movie to grab when you're not looking for anything heavy this season (or this year).