Jumanji: The Next Level Review
Ben Peyton praises the return of the fab four in his Jumanji: The Next Level review
Director: Jake Kasdan
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Alex Wolff, Madison Iseman, Danny DeVito, Colin Hanks, Awkwafina, Nick Jonas, Rory McCann and Danny Glover
Following on from 2017’s hugely successful Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, where four high school students were magically sucked into a video game and became its characters, comes the eagerly anticipated sequel.
Struggling to adapt to life back in reality, Spencer (Wolff) decides to revisit the one place where he feels he has worth. Fearing for his safety, his friends don’t hesitate (well, maybe one of them does) to re-enter the dangerous world of Jumanji to bring him safely back home.
This time, the game’s avatars are the same (with a few new ones thrown in), but the players have changed. Joining the fun are Spencer’s (Wolff) grandfather Eddie (DeVito) and his friend Milo (Gover) and it’s the introduction of these two old timers that takes Jumanji to the next level.
As former business partners, their friendship ended after Milo decided to retire, leaving a bitter Eddie brooding on what he saw as a betrayal. This feud is continued in the gaming world as they inhabit Dr. Smolder Bravestone and Franklin “Mouse” Finbar leaving Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, respectively, to ham it up enormously and have an absolute ball cranking up the grouch factor to 11.
Not to be left out, Karen Gillan and Jack Black plus new addition Awkwafina all have their moment and all leave their mark. Rory McCann, best known for Game of Thrones, is the baddy this time but is sorely underused, and whilst it was quite a spectacle to see The Hound squaring off against The Rock, more could’ve been made from that clash of the titans.
It’s not just the jungle that’s explored as the world of Jumanji is opened up with much more cinematic scope. Deserts and snow-capped rocky mountains provide the backdrop for the action which, although it takes a little while to come, is well worth the wait. Featuring some exhilarating set-pieces including a dune buggy ostrich chase and a rope-bridge showdown against some vicious mandrills, with more than a hint of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom thrown in for good measure, the ensemble’s various skills are showcased in inventive and unique ways.
The bonus of new cast and characters certainly helps to keep things fresh and that’s what makes this so much fun to watch. They’re all clearly relishing the opportunity to play with convention as they inhabit different genders and personalities, each with their own quirks and features. Indeed, at one point it brings a whole new meaning to horse-play.
Climaxing with a surprisingly emotional finale, Jumanji: The Next Level might not necessarily be an improvement on the first, but certainly continues the excitement and adventure with style and laughs aplenty. Game over? Unlikely.
Stick around for a brief mid-credits scene.
Jumanji: The Next Level plays in UK cinemas from Wednesday 11 December.
Read more of Ben’s Reviews here.
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