thu 02/07/2020

Jumanji: The Next Level review - raising their game | reviews, news & interviews

Jumanji: The Next Level review - raising their game

Jumanji: The Next Level review - raising their game

Dwayne Johnson and the gang return to the enjoyably goofy video game adventure

Game on. Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson and Karen Gillan in 'Jumanji: The Next Level'

Two years ago Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle dusted off the Robin Williams vehicle from the Nineties with entertaining results, improving on the original with astute casting, a goofy script and special effects that didn’t take themselves too seriously.

A sequel was inevitable. And as befitting a film that takes place inside a video game, to make it work the filmmakers had to go onto the ‘next level’ in terms of plotting and spectacle. They’ve achieved that, with a great deal of ingenuity, while perhaps predictably losing some of the freshness of the earlier outing.

Jumanji is the literally immersive video game that sucks its players into a world in which they embody the physiques of their game avatars – for good or ill depending who they get. And here, losing lives really is a matter of life and death.

The first film saw four teens go into the game strangers and emerge friends. Director Jake Kasdan and his stars made hay with the character reversals – geeky Spencer suddenly becoming the heroic Dr Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), vacuous blonde Bethany horrified to find herself in the dumpy male body of Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black), introverted Martha now sexy, athletic Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) and sports star Fridge humbled to find himself as the diminutive Mouse Finbar (Kevin Hart).

Kasdan’s solution to getting his characters back into the game is cute: avatar addiction. Poor Spencer is finding life tough in the real world. Alienated from his friends, the familiar refrain “We’re different people” really has a ring to it when you are no longer the size of a small mountain.

When the forlorn Spencer dives back into the game alone, the others follow, accidentally accompanied by two old fellas – Spencer’s irascible grandfather Eddie (Danny De Vito) and his estranged partner Milo (Danny Glover). And this time, no-one gets to decide their avatar.

The addition of new characters and the anarchic spin of the avatar wheel requires a lot of re-adjusting; there’s no point entering this film unless you’ve seen the first. Once settled, the value of Kasdan’s risk starts to pay off, with the winningly peculiar spectacle of Johnson trying to channel De Vito, and the technically more assured and very funny Hart slowing down his natural motor-mouth delivery to Glover’s leisurely drawl. Then there's the appearance of franchise newcomer Awkwafina (pictured above, centre) and the fact that mid-picture Kasdan will spin the avatar wheel again, to keep us enjoyably on our toes.

As well as more character work, even a little pathos, this next level also has more action – with two great sequences involving, first, rampaging ostriches and sand buggies in the desert, then murderous monkeys chasing our heroes across rope bridges over a dangerous ravine. Think Lara Croft, with a little more soul.

Kasdan’s solution to getting his characters back into the game is cute: avatar addiction

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters