Jumanji is a film I grew up with so it'll always hold a place in my heart. It's by no means the greatest film ever made but it is a film I never thought would need a sequel, the very idea being a product of the lazy Hollywood cycle. To do a sequel to Jumanji, you have to be brave enough to evolve the franchise and not just rehash it all, which is exactly what they did with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

When four teenagers get sucked into the video game Jumanji, they become their chosen avatars; Dr Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black), Franklin Finbar (Kevin Hart) and Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). Together they must play along and finish the game to stand any chance of getting back home.
The evolution of Jumanji from board game to video game is one of the sensible ways that the creative team bring us a sequel two decades after the original was released. It's the only way the kids of today would ever play it so to see the game itself change to attract new players makes sense. The idea of a sequel after all this time is one that left me skeptical however, thanks to a changed concept of the story taking place inside the game rather than the game coming to the real world, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle quickly became a sequel to become interested in.

The changed concept is one that leads to a good old-fashioned adventure romp full of action and plenty of fun for the entire family. The idea of the kids being sucked into the game and being forced to play it out as characters totally opposite to their everyday selves makes for an amusing watch, the raucous laughter from the audience being a telling sign.

No one is having more fun here than the four leads of the film mind. Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan all make Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle such great entertainment; Johnson milking it while playing a nerd trapped inside the body fit for an action movie star, Hart revelling in the big guy trapped in a small guy's body role, Black stealing the film as the Instagram obsessed girl playing as an overweight professor, a role he seems so suited for, and Gillan bringing the fierceness when she needs to as Ruby Roundhouse a.k.a. the "Killer of Men" which, as you've guessed, is so far away from her character back in the real world. You get a sense that working on this set would have been so much fun.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle works as a continuation of the Jumanji franchise, even if there are people out there who are adamant it won't. It's the perfect kind of film to take the family along to and I can guarantee fun will be had all round. It was much better than I was expecting and I'm ready to call it the biggest surprise of the year.

Verdict: ★★★★


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