The original Jumanji was supposed to be a one-and-done film, even though it teased the potential for a sequel. Many voiced trepidation at the prospect of a sequel after all these years later, and after the tragic death of original star Robin Williams, there were valid concerns about whether this sequel could be both a good movie and a fitting sequel and tribute to what had come before.
I am glad to report that it fulfilled all expectations.
The film relies almost entirely on its star power, and it has that in spades with the likes of Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, and Nick Jonas. Where the charm resides, though, is the actors playing against their types through the means of real-world to video game body switching: The Rock embodying a nerdy hypochondriac, Hart an all-star jock, Gillan a shy insecure reject, and perhaps most brilliant of them all, Black housing a she's-all-that pretty girl. Together our four teenage protagonists get sucked into the video game incarnation of Jumanji, a jungle land that is threatened from the typical video game threat, and our heroes must do the usual video game tasks in order to beat the game and return to the real world, all without getting killed in-game, which will get them killed in real life after three lives.
The film thematically treads the same sort of ground that other teen movies tend to cover, mainly the stereotypical high school tropes get thrust into a situation that forces them to work together to correct each other's flaws and by the end they return to their 'normal' lives as better people.
What the film does different in the body-switching is that these tropes are transferred onto adult actors, people who each have tropes of their own, and the way that each actor gets to play against their type is definitely what makes this movie so fun.
On the flipside, like a video game, the villain is very one- dimensional, and while the narrative isn't necessarily harmed by it, it does stand out as something that's lacking, wishing that the villain was more than just 'I will kill you because reasons'.
Also, the character introductions in the real world at the beginning of the film feel very forced, as in we all know they end up in the game, and the reasons they get into the situation feel very convenient, as if the writers could not find an elegant means to get these four people in the same place in front of the game console at the same time, so they just threw them all together.
These are fairly minor nitpicks, as the pace of this film is fast, it doesn't really drag at all, and while they do repeat a joke or two, it doesn't step over the line into annoying. All this makes for a very fun film, definitely worth your time this holiday season, and after once it gets released on home media.