JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE — Review by Susan Granger

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This re-imagining of Robin Williams’ 1995 action comedy delights in its own right, as four archetypal teenagers, serving detention in the school’s storeroom, discover a vintage video game and decide to play, each assuming an avatar. Brainiac nerd Spencer (Alex Wolff) picks Dr. Smolder Bravestone, football star Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) chooses zoologist Moose Finbar, egocentric Bethany (Madison Iseman) opts for ‘curvy’ cartographer Shelly Oberon, leaving angry, uptight Martha (Morgan Turner) as Ruby Roundhouse. Continue reading…

To their amazement, they‘re suddenly ‘grown up,’ inhabiting the bodies of their avatars. Insecure Spencer has become muscular Dwayne Johnson. Fridge turns into acerbic comedian Kevin Hart, whose duty is to tote their weapons in his backpack. Beautiful Bethany is appalled when she discovers she’s been transformed into pudgy Jack Black. And geeky Martha gets her groove on as rockin’ Karen Gillan.

After adjusting to the unexpected body-swap, their quest within the jungle game is to replace a green gemstone that’s been stolen from the eye of a giant jaguar statue. If they succeed, they can break the curse perpetrated by Dr. Bravestone’s smarmy former partner, Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale). And Nick Jonas appears briefly as a former pilot who’s been stuck in the game for more than 20 years.

What makes it work is how they defy their stereotypes, epitomized by the flawless casting. Dwayne Johnson oozes self-deprecating charm, while Jack Black captures the many nuances of Bethany’s annoying self-absorption.

Inspired by the work of children’s author Chris Van Allsburg, it’s scripted by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg & Jeff Pinkner and adroitly directed by Jake Kasdan, son of Lawrence Kasdan, who worked as a screenwriter with Steven Spielberg on “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” You can spot the familiar connections.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is a spirited 7, a fun-filled adventure that should appeal to the whole family.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.