When the previous Jumanji movie came out, it wowed audiences with its adventurous and fresh spirit. Can the sequel repeat the magic?
Let’s call it the Lego Movie syndrome.
The first Lego Movie was fresh, oddly original and so much bloody fun. It was also surprising given that it was based on a toy product. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part was solid and entertaining, but many of the same elements that tickled us the first time were just kinda cool the second time.
Jumanji: The Next Level follows the same template.
The first movie was surprisingly great – clever and fresh and oddly original given that it was a soft reboot/sequel of sorts of the 1995 Robin Williams movie.
We weren’t expecting much so when it delivered thrills and laughs, we ate it up.
The sequel, Jumanji: The Next Level, is like the Lego Movie sequel – it’s fine. It has the same charismatic cast goofing around and kicking arse, but now it’s not stale but familiar.
Dependable is not a bad thing for a movie to be, especially a blockbuster that hasn’t promised to be some cerebral film with a capital F. But just so we’re clear about expectations from the get-go.
The Rock, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan find themselves returning to the drumbeats of Jumanji but now with added Awkwafina, who is having a great couple of years.
The sequel picks up a couple of years after the four teens – Spencer (Alex Wolff), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), Bethany (Madison Iseman) and Martha (Morgan Turner) – fought their way out of the jungle.
They have now finished high school and are off at college but Spencer has the freshman blues, letting the worse parts of New York City defeat him. So when they’re all gathered back in their hometown for Christmas, the others notice that Spencer is being a bit weird.
Spencer, it turns out, saved the video game console that sucked them into Jumanji in the first place, and he’s feeling like if he could return to a time and place where he was Dr Bravestone (The Rock), then maybe he’ll start to regain his confidence.
That’s a bad idea. Apparently, he forgot about the stampeding rhino herd.
When the other three teens decide to go in after Spencer, figuring if they’ve done it before, they can again, things go awry. The malfunctioning console doesn’t take all of them, instead sucking in Spencer’s grandfather Eddie (Danny De Vito) and his old, estranged friend Milo (Danny Glover).
While Martha gets to put on the Ruby Roundhouse (Gillan) skin again, everyone else gets switched around. Eddie is now Bravestone, Fridge becomes Professor Oberon (Black) and the slow-talking Milo is Mouse Finbar (Hart). Spencer is nowhere to be found.
The mission has changed too. Now they have to reclaim a stolen jewel from Jurgen the Brutal (Rory McCann).
You wouldn’t think The Rock would be able to mimic De Vito’s speech rhythms, but he does, as does Hart with Glover, and it’s very amusing.
There’s a lot of slapstick comedy in Jumanji: The Next Level and a splendid and exciting set-piece involving a nightmare moving ropes course and some deadly mandrills. It’s also pretty well-paced and the runtime flies by.
You’ll probably need to have seen Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle to get the most out of this follow-up because it doesn’t waste a lot of time world-building or explaining the rules, and a good deal of the humour relies on dynamics previously set up.
Jumanji: The Next Level isn’t going to set the world on fire, but it’s enjoyable enough for the price of entry.
Jumanji: The Next Level is in cinemas on Boxing Day