Saw this with my kids and parents as kind of a "family movie night" yesterday.
COLLECTION OF RANDOM THOUGHTS
--The references to the prior Jumanji were sparse, but meaningful and somewhat cleverly inserted. I will say, however, that I did not forget that Parrish was supposedly marooned in Africa during the first film, while these characters are clearly marooned in South America.
--We were all delighted by this. I expected two hours of "not much," and I came out having laughed heartily and been quite entertained.
--Jack Black straight up steals this movie, with an assist from Gillan. Just outright thievery. Those two are a hoot every time they take center stage.
--Johnson? Eh. Surprisingly, he is easily the least compelling of the four ... five? ... leads for me. Easily. Black, Gillan, and to a lesser extent Hart, are all funnier and capture the angst of being transformed in a more entertaining way. Johnson has a few good comedic scenes (smolder ... lol ...) but he's relegated to straight man a lot, and that's boring. It doesn't help that he's the only one of the mains who is legitimately happy about the body swap, as those are some of the funniest moments.
--My parents understood essentially none of the video game references, but me and the kids loved them.
--The characters dying from video game shit had me convulsing in laughter. Not as much as Gillan's "distraction" scene, though. She's pretty hot and fierce in this.
--Okay, I may have been completely oblivious or overthinking things, but I was utterly wrong in my prediction-while-watching of what happened to the boy from 1996 who vanished. I thought he became the villain (which, actually, I think would have made for a more engaging final third of the film). Instead, when he shows up halfway through, I was genuinely surprised. The somewhat rushed "let's stay behind" option we see from Johnson might have had a little more weight to it if we had seen another character descend into evil due to being trapped in the game for so long.
--Bazaar sequence and the "transportation" checkpoint probably my favorite part of the film. Just a riot.
--The final action sequence fell slightly flat for me as really only two of the characters had much to do, but by then the movie was coasting on so much goodwill I was just having a great time.
We all liked it. Much more than I expected. It's no Zathura, and I don't know if it's quite as good as its predecessor, but given how highly I praise Zathura and the original Jumanji that doesn't mean it's a bad film. I think if they had reworked the helicopter sequence and final fight a bit, and maybe given 1996 boy a more compelling narrative (given how long he's been trapped in the game), it would have made a difference ... but I still liked it plenty.