That means skinny Spencer morphs into Smolder Bravestone, the expedition leader played by Dwayne Johnson like the charmboy Rock he is. Gridiron giant Fridge is reduced to Kevin Hart-size as zoologist Moose Finbar, portrayed by good-sport Hart himself. As for introverted Martha, she’s now Ruby Roundhouse, allowing the talented Karen Gillan to resent being objectified in jungle-inappropriate shorts and halter top. Bethany has it even worse: she’s been transformed into Professor Shelly Oberon, a middle-aged schlub in the person of Jack Black. All the actors get in their licks, but Black steals every scene he’s in as a teen hottie who’s creeped out by her fate, but finds compensations (it’s so much easier to pee with a penis). Black is expectedly hilarious, but the beauty part of his performance is that, instead of exaggerating or patronizing this Instagram princess, he finds her vulnerable heart.
That’s the setup in the script it took four screenwriters to concoct. But director Jake Kasdan keeps the action humming as the characters learn important life lessons while dodging bodily injury as they attempt to restore the emerald eye of a jaguar carved into a mountaintop. Death doesn’t scare our heroes too much, mostly because game rules allow each to die three times before it’s really Game Over. Computer-generated effects work overtime to scare up excitement, but this movie finds it sweet spot in comedy, notably when Ruby shows her skills at “dance fighting.” Did I mention that Nick Jonas and Bobby Cannavale also show up? Better keep their roles spoiler-free, since genuine surprises are in short supply. This updated Jumanji can’t outrun the clichés on its tail, but its puppy-eagerness to please is hard to resist.