Jumanji: The Next Level promises something even more challenging, but fails to step up from its predecessor.
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Alex Wolff, Morgan Turner, Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman, Awkwafina, Rory McCann, Danny Glover, and Danny DeVito
There is no denying that 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was a huge success, amassing about $1 billion at the box office. With a fresh new take on the already beloved concept of Jumanji, it somewhat begged the question of why a sequel hadn’t been done before, though the presence of the talent in question: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan, was definitely worth waiting for. Each is perfectly suited to their roles here, and imbued the franchise with heaps of humour and potential.
It’s therefore somewhat of a shame that what has been produced is so similar in structure and form to Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Considering the sheer wealth of possibilities available to the creatives involved in terms of where to take the franchise, our characters still find themselves in jungle-like surroundings, fighting against time to complete the game with rapidly declining lives. They also need to take an object to a specific location and utter the words “Jumanji”. So it’s of an ilk to say the least.
Having said that, the film has clearly played to its strengths. When arriving in Jumanji once more, we get enough hilarious body-swapping hijinks to be amusing and diverting. The character additions of Spencer’s grandfather Eddie, played by Danny DeVito, and his old friend Milo Walker, played by Danny Glover, are wonderful here. This allows for much hilarity as Ruby (Karen Gillan) and Shelly (Jack Black) interact with a thoroughly clueless and unhelpful Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) and Mouse (Kevin Hart), who fail to understand the game mechanics in the same way that seasoned pros Martha and Fridge do. Another addition, Jurgen the Brutal – this film’s villain – played by Rory McCann is also highly interesting, and a last minute twist in relation to his character is intriguing, though not as shocking as the reveal of Nick Jonas’ character being an avatar in the previous film. Awkwafina’s new avatar, thief Ming Fleetfoot, is a welcome addition also, and her Danny DeVito impression is simply sublime.
Jumanji: The Next Level does enough to satisfy fans and is a thoroughly diverting and entertaining ride. However, it does very little to break the mould that it set up for itself in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. It offers very little extra that the first film did not already possess, which is a shame considering the limitless potential that such a film could have. In the event of a follow-up film, it might be necessary to break away from the ordinary formula, which might cause a more perilous journey for our heroes, instead of one that feels so unnervingly familiar.