Friday, 13 December 2019

Review: Jumanji - The Next Level

Jumanji: The Next Level (3D)
Cert: 12A / 123 mins / Dir. Jake Kasdan / Trailer

Realising that Disney/Lucasfilm have pretty much got the adventure-cinema market sewn up this December, Sony/Columbia have decided to drop their own franchise entry startlingly close to its release date. Jumanji: The Next Level opens properly a week before Episode IX, but can it compete?


Well, kinda. While it’s technically the third Jumanji film, this is very much the second chapter of 2017’s soft-reboot, and tonally it’s on the same page. In fact narratively, it’s barely even on the next page.

After a setup sequence which takes far too long considering how perfunctory it all turns out to be, our heroes (Morgan Turner, Madison Iseman, Ser’Darius Blain) are transported once again to the simulated otherworld of Jumanji in a bid to find their missing friend (Alex Wolff), adopting the in-game personas of Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Dwayne Johnson. Additional cast-members in the real world come from Danny DeVito and Danny Glover, while extra star-billing avatars arrive in the forms of Awkwafina and Rory McCann. Nick Jonas and Rhys Darby return in roles they could have probably filmed in a single day.


And it’s all good fun, with a self-aware script buoying up the rollicking adventure and stunning visuals*1. The problem is that we’ve already done this, and The Next Level always feels like a remix of Welcome To The Jungle without really bringing any new content. The body-swap motif from last time is replayed and there’s extra mileage here in exploring that further, but ultimately this is a device to get the most out of the in-game cast, and it feels like padding. The central adventure itself is a linear affair, with its story-admin often coming off as cumbersome.


Sequel-movies have always been saddled with this burden of course, and sequel-games even more so. It stands to reason that this project would suffer. Any gamer will be hard-pushed to break the programming of their surroundings, and the law of diminishing returns is the most unforgiving of all. 2017’s entry had pleasant surprise as its super-weapon; this follow-up isn’t playing with the same armoury. So perhaps it’s unavoidable (if not intentional), but even coasting along on effortless charm The Next Level feels disposable at best.

But enough of my moaning. Jumanji: The Next Level is good-spirited, undemanding fun. And any movie which can have me consistently enjoying performances from Jack Black and Kevin Hart must be doing a lot of things right…

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
The previous Jumanji film.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
It is.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
It is.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It's not.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
That's possible.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There only bloody is.

What’s more, combine it with the Wilhelm Scream in the pre-movie McDonald's advert, the one in the Amazon Fire TV spot and Cineworld's new 2020-promo, and that's pretty good for an evening out. And given the scream-stats for 2019, it's about damned time

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Jack Black is in this, and he was in that Gulliver's Travels along with Jonathan 'Jebel' Aris.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 The 3D version of this movie is Very Much In 3D All Of The Time, which feels a little overblown in the first act before the action begins, but is still a sweet touch for a format which the industry has all but dropped in 2019... [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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