Jumanji: The Next Level Review
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the first sequel to the 1995 classic family adventure film Jumanji, found box office success as the fifth highest-grossing film of the year worldwide and was widely held by critics as needless good fun. If Welcome to the Jungle felt unnecessary, its sequel Jumanji: The Next Level is doubly so. Heavily reliant on the charm of the main cast, with some iconic new blood joining the team, the film is a total joy, albeit one that is rather forgettable.
After saving Jumanji from the corrupt Russell Van Pelt the new found best friends, Spencer (Alex Wolff), Martha (Morgan Turner), Bethany (Madison Iseman), and Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain) get back into the swing of normal college life. But the Jumanji drums sound again, taking Spencer with them leaving it up to the rest of the gang to enter back into the game to save not only their friend but also Jumanji once again. What they don’t expect, however, is for Spencer’s grandfather Ed (Danny DeVito) and his ex-friend Milo (Danny Glover) to get sucked in too. With this next level comes a lot more chaos.
The Jumanji of The Next Level is wholly different from that of its predecessor; the jungle is swapped for burning deserts, ‘The Oasis’, and snow-capped fortresses. These new settings, in turn, allow for some unique new ‘levels’, all of which are delivered with a satisfying level of excitement. However, the stakes seem lower. There is less emphasis on the risk of their own lives (several players end up with one life left before the game really gets started) and tension is more often left to the side-lines in favour of humour. This wouldn’t really be a complaint, however, if the humour packed more of a punch but sadly this isn’t the case. The film is as much of a screwball comedy as it gets but often relies on the absurd for laughs, which is a shame considering how some lines are genuinely hilarious proving that they do know what they’re doing.
Characters and their relationships are the heart of the Jumanji franchise; this was the case in the original with Robin William’s Alan and Sarah, and with the rekindling and founding of both old and new friendships between the team in Welcome to the Jungle. The Next Level takes an interesting new route to this by bringing in ex-friends and business partners Ed and Milo as new, unwilling players. Causing the body-swap comedy that makes up the basis of a lot of the humour of the film, there is a lot to be praised about these new players — I mean what’s not to be enjoyed about seeing Johnson and Hart bringing their best DeVito and Glover? However, their relationship seems to be just a rehashing of the friend-feud of Fridge and Spencer in the first movie, only wrapped up with some old-age. That’s not to say that this makes it a bad arc, it’s just undemanding as we’ve seen it before.
While the advertising for The Next Level has continually reminded us that the “game has changed”, it sadly seems that not enough has changed at all. Nevertheless, the film sports a stellar cast that brings undeniable charm and ease to the film. Old and new players alike, with specific mention to Awkafina who for me stole every scene she was in, make it hard to not have fun. In spite of its flaws, it has to be said: Jumanji: The Next Level is a silly screwball adventure that’ll bring a smile this Christmas, sure to please audiences young and old and certain to reach box office highs.
Jumanji: The Next Level is released on December 11
Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)
Dir: Jake Kasdan | Cast: Dania Ramirez, Dwayne Johnson, karen gillan, Madison Iseman | Writers: Chris Van Allsburg (based on the book "Jumanji" by), Jake Kasdan, Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg