Jumanji: The Next Level
It’s more respawn and replay than bold new adventure in Jake Kasdan’s sequel Jumanji: The Next Level. While the star cast of avatars are as charming and mostly hilarious as in their first outing, it’s difficult to ignore the feeling that Kasdan’s sequel is merely aping the preceding film’s successful design.
When Spencer (Alex Wolff) returns home to New Hampshire from his depressing NYC-based college life, he distances himself from his former friends (Madison Iseman, Ser’Darius Blain, Morgan Turner). In order to escape dealing with these personal changes, including sharing his old room with ailing, stubborn grandpa Eddie (Danny DeVito), Spencer decides to fix the deadly Jumanji videogame and plug-in. As the ominous drum-beats sound, the team must jump back into the jungle to rescue their friend. However, inhospitable terrain, hostile wildlife and murderous hordes are the least of their problems when they realise that Eddie and his former friend Milo (Danny Glover) have accidentally joined the squad.
Enter our avatar heroes (Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillen and Jack Black) free-falling from the sky, exchanging jokes on identity mismatch and explaining the same movie-objective to restore a magic jewel-shaped MacGuffin. Kasdan and Jeff Pinkner’s screenplay is often too familiar for its own good. There’s a definite lack of inspiration when the filmmaker relies too much on slight variations of the same routines to keep the audience engaged.
The stars do entertain with their new personalities, though they often struggle to maintain that laughter after the opening gags. Johnson and franchise newcomer Awkwafina tickle with their delightful imitation of DeVito’s often explosive abrasiveness (Awkwafina has DeVito’s squat posture and New Jersey drawl perfect), while Hart shows some comedic range with his take-off of Glover’s deliberate explanations. Black only starts to shine when channelling the cutely superficial Bethany again. Gillen strides with new assuredness, her deadly nunchuck skills adding extra gusto to her obligatory “fight-dance”. Despite their chemistry lacking freshness, this hapless but good-natured bunch are still a joy to watch.
The Next Level doesn’t disappoint with rebooting the family-friendly action thrills, ironic humour and unashamed sentimentality of Welcome to the Jungle. It’s just a shame that after that surprisingly successful revival, this follow-up doesn’t raise the franchise anywhere above that level.
Jumanji: The Next Level is released nationwide on 13th December 2019.
Watch the trailer for Jumanji: The Next Level here: