Run Time: 104 min vs 112 min
Rating: PG vs PG-13
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 50/62 vs 75/90
Let me start off by saying that Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is not a sequel to the 1995 Robin Williams version of Jumanji. You could look at this as a part of the Jumanji universe (since this seems to be a trend Hollywood is leaning towards). But a sequel, it is not, although you may be hearing that; I will discuss later why is it not (no spoilers).
If you are not familiar with the original Jumanji film, here is a brief summary: A little boy named Alan Parrish finds a unique board game in a construction area and he asks a friend to play the game with him. It turns out the the board game is magical and upon one disastrous roll of the dice Alan is sucked into the board game for 26 years. He is finally released when children find the board game in the attic of Robert’s childhood home that they are now living in with their Aunt. The trio recruit Alan’s childhood friend to help them complete the game and as a result they unleash various animals and villains from the Jungle of Jumanji to the quiet suburban streets of Brantford.
In this modernized version, the Jumanji board game somehow changes itself into a video game cartridge (because it’s magical…I guess) and once again it sucks a player into the Jungle of Jumanji. And again, 20 years later the game is found but this time by a group of teenagers (Spencer, Fridge, Bethany, and Martha) and they are curious (bored) enough to play the game. But in a twist, they are also sucked into the game and upon arriving in Jumanji find that they are not themselves and have to defeat the game again to escape the Jungle and return back to Brantford.
Unlike my other reviews on this blog post, instead of discussing the good and bad of the two movies I will be discussing the similarities and differences between the two and which (if either) I enjoyed more.
We’ve Seen This Before:
The board game back story is the strongest commonality between these two films. Both story lines rely on the sheer boredom of preteens and teenagers in order to make these films even happen in the first place. With that being said there are quite a few plot conveniences that will make you roll your eyes a bit but you can forgive because if they didn’t exist then there would be no movie. One of those conveniences is the time jump that happens at the end of both films. I won’t spoil anything but there are some things that just don’t make a lot of sense with how both of these films end.
Another similarity in these films is that the main villain is Van Pelt. In the 1995 version Van Pelt is a big game hunter but in the 2017 version he has acquired the ability to control all the animals of Jumanji. This is also one of the key differences that makes this not a sequel. We also have some great animal sequences in both films (thanks to the technology of CG) but they were pretty awesome none the less. Although the visuals of the 1995 version have not held up as well over time, it was groundbreaking in terms of special effects when it debuted and the 2017 version has some pretty innovative stuff happening with it too. There probably isn’t much we haven’t seen but (without giving spoilers) Welcome to the Jungle got really creative and did a fantastic job of upholding that tradition of stepping outside the box that the 1995 version was synonymous for.
Now This is Different:
There are quite a few differences between these two film and these differences don’t hurt any of these films but they, again really demonstrate how these films are connected by the game storyline but that’s about it. Let’s talk about how other than a couple of references here and there, Alan Parrish is not even a thought in Welcome to the Jungle. Had there been some sort of familial tie or even him as a teacher at the school then I could have bought this as a sequel but if the central character from the original film is nothing more than a mere afterthought, then calling this a sequel is quite a reach.
Another difference is, of course in the use of a video game versus a board game in the reboot. We see the board game for a split second in the opening of the scene of Welcome to the Jungle as a way to pay homage but I will have to agree that turning the board game into a video game was a great way to make this movie appeal to the new generation of young adults. The fact that the teens that were sucked into the video game as the avatars of the game and not themselves was an awesome twist.
I also will not ignore the fact that Welcome to the Jungle stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and while we all loved Robin Williams (R.I.P) he did not have the type of star power that The Rock has today. Just seeing The Rock on the movie poster gives Welcome to the Jungle a much more action comedy feel than the 1995 movie poster that would put that version in either the Kids category or Comedy. So, with that these two films feel very different. I even saw where another movie reviewer (I forget who at this time) felt that Welcome to the Jungle could have been made without including the elements of Jumanji and it still would have been as successful. I definitely agree with the sentiment and I wonder if this Jumanji world will continue to evolve into a more adult universe (possible R-rated version in the future?)
The 1995 Jumanji is a very enjoyable film and I still have a good time watching it even now 23 years after it’s release. I am a huge Robin Williams fan and could not imagine another actor pulling off what he did in the original film. On the other hand, the 2017 reboot is just as good if not slightly better than the original. The Rock and Jack Black gave great performances and really carried this new version for me. Kevin Hart did his usual performance and it was pretty dry to me. I appreciate that the writers recognized that kids these days are not playing board games like we were in 1995 and made the decision to update it to a video game. That was a clever idea and they executed it very well. And I’m not sure if it’s just The Rock’s appeal but it seems like everything he touches turns to gold. So, I would say Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle has a slight advantage over Jumanji and this Sista Gurl would high recommend you go check out Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle while it is on the big screen! You will leave the theater feeling like you had a really good time and watch the original Jumanji for old time sakes while you’re at!