A sequel to the 2017 box office hit Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle appeared a no brainer, with the reimagining of the 1995 classic proving a surprisingly fun outing thanks to the body swapping antics and comedic chops of Johnson, Hart, Gillan and Black. Thankfully the cast all return for the second outing, complete with a couple of new additions and adventures along the way!
The gang once again find themselves in the deadly world of Jumanji in search of a lost Spencer (Alex Wolff), but this time around the gameplay has changed and all is not what it seems. In a hilarious twist of events, Spencer’s grandfather Eddie (Danny Devito) and his friend Milo (Danny Glover) are accidentally sucked into the game, waking up in the avatars of Dr Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) and Franklin ‘Mouse’ Finbar (Kevin Hart). Together they have to navigate the games numerous obstacles and terrains to retrieve the jewel from the big bad, complete the level and save Spencer, but can the old friends put aside their differences and complete the mission in time?
Jumanji: The Next Level is unabashed family-friendly fun. Director Jake Kasdan builds on the body swapping capers and jungle adventure narrative with brand new regions and terrains to explore, along with some hilarious adapted avatar strengths and weaknesses. There’s more to explore in the game’s second level, but Kasdan makes sure to not stray too far away from the winning formula of the first, leading to a pretty predictable gameplay. The pacing was a bit slow to start too, but once the characters returned to their avatars and Jumanji, the film quickly found it’s feet!
Despite sticking to a pretty formulaic narrative, the heart of the film lies in the surprisingly emotional arc between Eddie and Milo, which very much took me by surprise! The expansion of the cast really added a new dimension to the video game characters, particularly with the accidental swap of Eddie into Dr Smolder Bravestone and Milo into Franklin ‘Mouse’ Finbar. Kevin Hart impersonating Danny Glover really was a stroke of comedy genius that had me laughing out loud throughout, with the actor definitely stealing the first half of the film. Dwayne Johnson impersonating a grumpy Denny Devito was also a whole load of fun, particularly as Johnson inhabited such a different role to his usual (adding an extra dimension to the smouldering intensity!). With an extra addition to the game unlocking more body swapping capabilities, it’s clear that the cast have a ball playing different roles throughout. The only disappointment was the lack of screen time for Game of Thrones star Rory McCann, as I would have loved to see more of the Hound vs the Rock!
With a second adventure comes a brand new level to explore, and boy are we treated to a bunch of action-packed sequences to boot! The central quest to retrieve the heart of Tahiti, I mean Jumanji, lead our heroes through a dune buggy ostrich chase, booby trapped prisons and a horde of evil Mandrils chase over ever changing rope bridges which felt very Indiana Jones and Temple Run-esque. The switch of terrain to desert and mountains also gave the film a more cinematic feel, along with a deeper exploration of the avatar’s in-game power including impressive acrobats from Karen Gillan’sRuby Roundhouse, along with fun and overly exaggerated fight scenes from Johnson’sDr Smolder Bravestone.
Jumanji: The Next Level is an action-packed thrill ride that the whole family will enjoy, which features a whole bunch of hilarious performances and exhilarating sequences. It’s not the most surprising sequel, but make sure you hang around for the mid credit sequence!