Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle upgrades the classic children's book to the video game age and surprises audiences with a hilariously fun and weighty adventure that's astonishingly better than its predecessor. Equipped with a reference-quality audio and video presentation but surprisingly light on supplements, the overall Blu-ray package is Recommended for the perfect family movie night.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is evidence of me not only growing old but that times have drastically changed in a direction I never would have predicted. I'm not talking about young moviegoers who grew up watching the original movie suddenly realizing the Robin Williams fantasy favorite is turning 23 later this year. I'm referring to the movie's title alluding to Guns 'N Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" and the actual song later used during the end credits, which was also used for the promotional trailers. Thirty years ago, the hard-rock band was considered risqué and indicative of a troubled, sinful youth, and featuring their song in a family-friendly adventure flick would have been quite controversial. But here we are with a movie that also features penis jokes and a verbal gag about one character's first experience with an erection. Perhaps even more surprising is that the adventure production about modern adolescence is a total blast, one of the most fun movies of 2017 and bordering on genius, becoming the rare sequel that's better than the original.
Part of the plot's brilliance is the characters themselves. They are four uniquely different teenagers with four distinctly contrasting personalities and personal dilemmas they are tasked with overcoming, which is in line with both the book and its 1995 adaptation's theme. Our central protagonist is Spencer (Alex Wolff), the archetypal nerd with allergies and phobias to nearly everything — too afraid to live life and take risks, basically. The most dangerous thing he's ever done is help his childhood friend "Fridge" (Ser'Darius Blain), the stereotypical football jock who's more brawn than brains, plagiarize an essay, which lands both boys in detention where Spencer discovers a vintage video game console. (The board game is apparently smart enough to adapt to the times and needs of the younger generation.) At detention, they meet Martha (Morgan Turner), who earlier refused to participate in P.E. class and insulted the teacher, and Bethany (Madison Iseman), the arrogant, self-centered popular girl who can't live without her phone, even during a quiz.
For a more in-depth take on the movie, you can read our review of the 4K UHD with Dolby Vision HERE.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Warner Home Video brings Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle to Blu-ray on Region Free, BD50 disc inside a blue, eco-elite keepcase with a code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy and a glossy cardboard slipcover. After several skippable trailers, viewers are taken to an animated screen with menu options along the bottom, music and full-motion clips.
The ragtag group of uncertain teens move up to the next level of confidence thanks to a stunning, reference-quality 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. Shot on digital cameras capable of 3.4K resolution, the freshly-minted transfer reveals razor-sharp definition in the surrounding jungle foliage, exposing the rough, cracking bark of the trees and the tiny veins of the leaves. From the individual whiskers on both Jack Black and Kevin Hart's faces to the distinct threading of the canvas-like costumes, fine lines are continuously distinct, even during fast-paced action sequences. Viewers can make out the pockmarks along the walls of the buildings in the Bazaar, and the wooden transportation shed shows its weathered age with every grain and splinter plainly visible. Facial complexions appear healthy and accurate with outstanding lifelike textures, exposing the tiniest wrinkle and negligible blemish.
Presented in its original 2.39:1 aspect ratio, the video also comes with a spot-on, comfortably bright contrast, bringing the many exterior jungle shots to demo-worthy life while crisp, pitch-perfect whites make the fluffy clouds in the sky radiate with realism. On the other end of the grayscale, black levels are rich and true with deep, penetrating shadows that maintain excellent detailing in the few murkiest moments and provide the image with an outstanding three-dimensional quality. Best of all, the screen is awash in lots of gorgeous, sumptuous colors, from the lively greens from the beautiful Hawaiian landscapes and the celestial blues of the sky to opulent reds in some of the clothing. Softer secondary hues are equally impressive, making the fiery orange glow of the torches saturate the entire frame while explosions retain extraordinary detailing within the brightest sections. With natural flesh tones that are appropriate to the climate, the presentation is simply a beauty to watch from beginning to end.
The fantasy sequel pulls out another impressive trick out its knapsack, stepping up to the audio challenge with a freaking fantastic DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack that brings the jungle to home theaters.
Right from the start, the suburbs of Brantford fill the room with the subtle noises of the neighborhood, generating a great sense of space. Things only improve even more dramatically once the kids are thrust into the wilderness, bursting with the cries and shrieking chatter of the wildlife. Birds and bugs fly from one corner of the room to the other and across the screen, or the sound of leaves rustling in the wind surround the listening area. Creating an awesomely immersive 360° soundfield, the room is kept busy with the propeller noise of the helicopter, the cracking sounds of thunder, bugs buzzing in every direction and the busy commotion of the Bazaar. Action sequences are layered with debris raining down on all sides, and Henry Jackman's enthusiastic score bleeds into all the channels.
Much of the attention and action is sustained on screen with lots of background activity evenly spread across three front channels. With convincing off-screen movement throughout, the soundstage feels spacious and expansive, generating a continuously engaging wall of sound. The lossless mix also comes with distinct clarity and superb definition in the mid-range, exhibiting excellent detailing and separation during the loudest, ear-piercing segments so that every action sequence remains perfectly audible. Most impressive and shocking is a powerful, varied and terrifically robust low-end that shakes, rattles and rumbles with awesome magnitude and intensity. The helicopter and rhino stampede scene is a particularly memorable moment for demoing. Dialogue is crystal-clear and precise in the center, delivering excellent inflection and emotive intonation in the voices, even in the whispered, more intimate conversations.
All the same supplements are shared with the day-and-date 4K home video release, which can be read in more detail in our review of the 4K UHD with Dolby Vision HERE.
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle picks up twenty years after the first movie and transports our four would-be heroes into a video game version of the original board game. The family action-adventure film pulls off an astonishing feat by being the rare sequel that's better than its predecessor and delivers an intelligent, thoughtful plot that's a total blast. The Blu-ray arrives with a stunningly gorgeous picture quality, an outstanding, demo-worthy audio presentation but somewhat disappointingly light on bonus material. Nevertheless, the overall package makes for a great purchase sure to entertain the entire family.