When a new Jumanji movie was announced, the idea was met with some justified groans. After all, the 1995 adventure starring Robin Williams may have aged disastrously but remains a treasured film for many. Against all odds, the reboot-sequel was an unexpectedly breezy and entertaining blockbuster, unpredictably scoring nearly $1 billion at the box office. So, when the fast-tracked sequel to 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle was unsurprisingly announced, it didn’t seem like the worst idea ever.
Jumanji: The Next Level sees the returning cast getting sucked back into the virtual game world, finding themselves once again mismatched in the bodies of their avatars, played once more by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart and Jack Black. Sound like a shameless carbon-copy of its predecessor? Fear not, because joining them this time around are two OAPs (Danny DeVito and Danny Glover) and a horde of angry mandrills.
As you may have guessed from that description, Jumanji: The Next Level doesn’t bother to level-up and play with the existing template. The fun body-swap shenanigans now feel recycled, and the only thing that redeems the core switcheroo gag in this installment is the acting: whoever gets to play the avatar for one of the Dannys gets to have a blast imitating the veteran actors’ speech patterns and mannerisms. In this respect, Kevin Hart and franchise newbie Awkwafina steal the show, but they’re ultimately short-changed by an uninspired script.
Jumanji: The Next Level is not only a case of diminishing returns but a textbook example of Hollywood’s lazy and depressingly risk-free “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach. It is certainly entertaining, but its overfamiliar antics needed a more inventive touch. Judging by this installment, the threequel tease at the end of this movie has once again earned the good Jumanji name a fresh batch of groans.
Jumanji: The Next Level | Directed by Jake Kasdan (US, 2019), with Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, Jack Black. Starts Dec 12.
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