Synopsis: After the events of the first film, the mysterious board game upgrades itself and finds a new set of players.
More fun and less at odds with itself narratively than the first film, not always forcing itself to be family friendly. The connections to the first film are smooth and heartfelt. Its self-aware dialogue provides some of the best comedic moments. There is a stronger embrace of how over the top this all is. Increases our understanding of what the game can do, while still remaining mysterious. The almost anachronistic allusions to TheBreakfast Club (1985) help hold together the “real world” side of the narrative. The discussion of identity fuels the film.
In spite of the upgrades, this film’s plot is largely the same as the first. Can be too ridiculous for its own good. The film’s consistent pacing makes this more like a rail-shooter tutorial than an adventure video game, negating any serious sense of peril throughout much of the story.
As the first film felt more like an ironically family friendly Hellraiser (1987), Welcome to the Jungle feels more like Westworld, particularly the 2016-present series. Like in the sci-fi series, this film brings the characters into a violent role-playing narrative, where the players can learn who they really are or could be. All the “players” become better people at the end, after finding themselves under the masks they chose for themselves.
Ultimately, this sequel adds significant depth to the debate of what Jumanji actually is. All those that played it changed dramatically, largely for the better, while the game can tweak itself to ensure it is played. One truly must now wonder if it was always a board game, or if it upgraded itself in the nineteenth century from who knows what. We still do not know its origins, but that is OK. Jumanji is not really about Jumanji. Unlike Hellraiser or Westworld, Jumanji’s goals may be about showing people they can be something more in the real world, even if it goes about it in rather insane ways.
Rotten Tomatoes — 76%