Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle ★★

A semi-related sequel to a 1996 kids movie that exactly zero human beings have watched since the death of VHS, the mildly amusing “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is further proof that even the stalest whiff of brand recognition has become preferable to originality. Only part of the blame for that belongs to the studios, but after cannibalizing themselves for much of the last 20 years, Hollywood has clearly eaten their way down to the crumbs.

That’s not to suggest the original “Jumanji” was such an unspeakably terrible thing — Joe Johnston has always known how to serve a fine bowl of popcorn entertainment — but rather to say that no one should ever have to write the words: “The original ‘Jumanji.’” And while it’s nice that this new adventure has virtually nothing to do with the first one, “The LEGO Batman Movie” screenwriter Chris McKenna leveraging the franchise’s most basic premise in order to pursue a clever post-modern concept, that’s also part of the problem: Despite the fact that nobody cares about “Jumanji,” our collective familiarity with that nonsense word is the only reason why Sony Pictures was willing to invest in such a high-concept holiday comedy, and the only reason why much of its eventual audience might be willing to give it a chance. Everybody wants something new, but nobody is willing to risk spending their money on it.

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