‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ invites us into a blend of old and new elements

Amber Bacardi, Reporter

Reprinted with permission from Sony Pictures.

Over 20 years after the original movie was released in 1995, the time has finally come for a stand-alone sequel in the Jumanji franchise. Directed by Jake Kasdan and released on Dec. 22, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” was one of 2017’s top-grossing films.

Despite its apparent success, upon first viewing the trailer for the action-packed comedy, I was skeptical. At first, I was concerned — like most fans are when it comes to sequels — that this modernized spin-off would not live up the expectations set by its predecessor. As a kid, I had thoroughly enjoyed the original film; I was not bothered by unrealistic-looking CGI, and Robin Williams’ unreplicable charm was a huge selling point for me. However, I found myself pleasantly surprised.

In the film, four heavily-stereotyped high schoolers find themselves stuck in detention. Ditching the board game from the previous movie for a more modern approach, the group of high schoolers stumble across an old video game console, which transports them to the world of Jumanji. The characters soon realize that their only option is to survive and beat the game in order to escape.

Although the first ten minutes are reminiscent of “The Breakfast Club” and give off a been-there-done-that vibe, the movie picks up the pace after the four main characters are quite literally sucked into the game. The characters become the avatar of their choice. Comical pandemonium ensues. The awkward nerd transforms into burly Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson); the athletic jock shrinks into Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart); the self-absorbed and popular Barbie doll becomes stout, middle-aged Professor Sheldon Oberon’s body (Jack Black); and the misfit wallflower is converted into “the killer of men,” Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan).

At first, the obvious stereotypes of the main characters seemed boring and unoriginal. However, I eventually realized this was intentional in order to accentuate the stark contrast between the characters’ personalities and the bodies of their new avatars — resulting in a comedic masterpiece. As the protagonists are forced out of their comfort zones, they begin to take on different perspectives and discover new things about themselves.

For example, through his new abilities as the beefy Dr. Smolder Bravestone, Spencer (Alex Wolff) gains more confidence and learns to be brave, while the shallow popular girl, Bethany (Madison Iseman), learns there is more to the world than just her phone. Although these morals have been flogged to death throughout the years by countless movies, “Jumanji” tells them in a new and refreshing way.