In 1995, the late Robin Williams starred in the fantasy adventure film, Jumanji, based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg. Centred around a mystical board game that unleashes jungle-based animals and villains at every turn, the film was another success in William’s career. In 2017, almost out of nowhere, a follow-up movie, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was released and starred Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillian that took the players into the hazardous world through a video game cartridge. To everyone’s surprise, this was also a huge success, almost earning NINE FIGURES at the box office. Does the newest sequel, Jumanji: The Next Level, continue the adventures and the laughs?
Three years after the events of the first film, Spencer (Alex Wolf), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) have drifted apart after they destroyed the Jumanji video game and moved off to different colleges. In an effort to relive a more adventurous experience, Spencer rebuilds the video game and gets transported back into the world. Upon realising this, the remaining trio apprehensively goes back into the game to rescue Spencer, but it malfunctions and also takes in grandpa Eddie (Danny DeVito) and his old estranged co-worker Milo (Danny Glover). As Martha plays as Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillian) once again, discovers everyone has taken different avatars, including Grandpa Eddie as Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Milo as Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart) and Fridge as Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black) and the game has become more challenging.
When looking back at Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and how they took the premise and cast, it was such a surprising turnout how a 20+ year old sequel starring The Rock and Kevin Hart worked as well as it did. Despite going for a much more comedic route than the much darker original film, the four leads provided some hilarious performances while also bringing a surprising satire of video game tropes like NPCs or cutscenes. Jumanji: The Next Level more or less follows the same path as it does slightly touch on the satire, but it mostly acts as a comedic vehicle for the cast, while also looking forward to the future of the series. But Jumanji: The Next Level does provide some variety with different locations and an imitating enough villain with Rory McCann as Jurgen the Brutal.
However, while the film does feel a bit repetitive, there is still plenty to enjoy from the cast, who not only still work together really well, they also bring different performances and stretch their comedy muscles. For example, if you ever wanted to see The Rock do an impersonation of an old man from New Jersey, then this movie’s for you. It is a shame that Kevin Hart didn’t get to say Danny Glover’s famous Lethal Weapon quote. The film also introduces magic water that allows the characters to swap avatars, which brings some surprises for those who get to play as certain characters. A very special shoutout to Awkwafina as the avatar Ming Fleetfoot, who really gets shine comedically as she gets to impersonate different players and her acting is spot on, without spoiling too much.
Overall, Jumanji: The Next Level is another solid comedic adventure that, despite retreading the same ground, gives a very talented cast the chance to give some surprisingly hilarious performances. I can recommend seeing the movie if you’re a fan of the series or any of the actors as it brings enough light-hearted fun for the holiday season.
Rating: ★★★ out of 5
Jumanji: The Next Level is in cinemas Boxing Day.