Movie Review: ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’

Director: Jake Kasdan

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, Danny DeVito, Danny Glover, Ser’Darius Blain, Morgan Turner, Alex Wolff, Nick Jonas, Colin Hanks, Awkwafina, Madison Iseman, Rys Darby, Rory McCann

Plot: A year after their adventure in the world of Jumanji, Spencer is experiencing a bought of depression and distanced himself from his friends. He returns to the game to live as Dr. Bravestone again, leaving his friends to come after him.

Review: Jumanji has been considered a classic for some time, mostly due to the talents of Robin Williams, and it was surprising how well the reboot was received. Updating the board game to a video game doesn’t sound appealing on paper but everyone involved seemed determined to make it as fun as possible. The family-friendly adventure film is something of a lost genre in this era of cinema, but the newly style Jumanji series is not only keeping the flame burning, but stoking it with gasoline. It’s nice to have a movie the whole family can go and see that isn’t a lazy attempt at merchandising or deathly dull for the parents.

We have the same basic set-up as the first – a group of people get absorbed into the fictional world of ‘Jumanji’, build out of genre tropes and stereotypes, where there have to complete a quest to escape. Once again the players take on the roles of the smouldering powerhouse Dr. Bravestone (Johnson), portly scientist Professor Sheldon (Black), diminutive support character Mouse (Hart) and the ass-kicking Ruby Roundhouse (Gillan). Much of the fun in the original came from these performers playing characters completely at odds with their appearances, and that concept is taken further with some characters getting switched around and the elderly Eddie (DeVito) and Milo (Glover) being inadvertently drawn into the world.

Whilst Martha (Turner) reclaims her Ruby Roundhouse avatar, hard-headed jock Fridge (Blain) is dismayed to find himself in Sheldon’s body. Their situation is made worse when they find themselves saddled with Eddie inhabiting Bravestone and Milo as Mouse, with neither quite managing to get their heads around the idea of being trapped in a video game. As their journey gets underway they discover Spencer (Wolff) has been given a new character, cat burglar Ming Fleetfoot (Awkwafina) and valley girl Bethany (Iseman) is…a horse.

The best comedic moments comes from the different personalities the heroes of Jumanji inhabit, and the mixing of expectations adds to the fun. Jack Black is the best of the bunch, using his comedy experience to great effect. Awkwafina is a surprise playing very much against type and having fun doing it.

Although the amount of CGI used during the action scenes make things a bit tiring in an Attack of the Clones sense, the shifting scenes keep things moving along at a brisk pace. Not all of the set pieces land, but none of them stick around long enough to be a bother.

Overall Jumanji remains a goofy break from reality and sometimes that’s all we need.

Rating: SEVEN out of TEN