The first question we have to ask of this new Jumanji film is what exactly were we expecting? The trailer seemed to suggest a full on comedy that was more reboot than sequel. That was at least partially correct. This is a reboot with some token links to the original Jumanji thrown in for flavour. It's not simply a comedy though. It certainly has comic elements but this is also a legitimate action adventure with all the ingredients one looks for in that. Tonally, this film is a natural successor to things like Stephen Sommers' The Mummy.
The game of Jumanji itself has evolved with the times but is still a couple of steps behind as it takes the form of a mid-nineties video game. Here is the first disappointment, as the video game element of it never quite feels like enough. The characters are pulled into the game, for sure, but they are not really in a game. There are a few token elements such as them each having three lives and opening a menu screen that shows their special skills, but this is never taken far enough for the gimmick to work, and given that the original Jumanji never had players as characters, this feels out of place with the story world. So why not just have your players sucked into another dimension? It just never quite feels like enough commitment to the premise, but what they do put in works effectively.
The main conceit of the video game style is of course to give the teenage characters the different bodies of their avatars in the game world, from where the hilarity will ensue. Unfortunately, this means establishing the teenage characters first, so we have to suffer through the laziest and most boring teenage character stereotypes they could manage. It's like no one cared about any of this and just wanted to get to the jungle stuff. In fact, all the emotional storylines that derive from the teenagers feel half-arsed and have just been put there to break up the action pieces.
This is a shame because the main four actors who play the computer avatars are all excellent in embodying the fish-out-of-water style that the bulk of the film plays off. Jack Black is easily the highlight as he plays a vapid teenage girl more convincingly than most teenage girls could. In fact, it might be a bit too good, because he embodies the character so well that the humour of seeing an overweight middle-aged man saying these things is kind of lost.
The jungle world of Jumanji is well established and beautifully envisioned. The effects are solid enough for a comic caper such as this and the antagonist has just about enough backstory to give us reason to legitimately fear him. There isn't much in the way of supporting characters but the likes of Rhys Darby and Nick Jonas do everything that is asked of them without too much fuss.
And that's really the ultimate issue here. Everything works but it's just lacking a cutting edge that could take it to the next level. Perhaps a bit more attention to the emotional elements of the plot or even just a charismatic villain; maybe a great score would have lifted it to something special but as it is it will forever be a solid passable bit of fun.
Nothing really wrong, but it feels like there was more potential; 7/10