'Jumanji: The Next Level' is in cinemas 26 December.
When the first of the 'Jumanji' reboots hit cinemas, it was hard to imagine the franchise surviving without Robin Williams, and though there was an ocean of doubts, fans were pleasantly surprised by 'Jumanji'’s ability to evolve with the times.
A successful first foray doesn’t stop the doubters though, especially when the second movie in a series has a habit of being a tremendous let-down. For a lot of fans, the question was clear: Can ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ overcome not just the sequel curse, but also keep the storyline fresh with the same core group of actors? The answer is a resounding ‘hell yes’.
On the surface, it’s your standard cheesy action flick, but surprisingly, ‘The Next Level’ has a heartfelt side. There’s a depth and profundity here which was certainly unexpected, but incredibly welcome. And let’s be honest: The idea of Spencer (played brilliantly by Alex Wolff) seeking an escape from an unfulfilling life by leaping into a murder game is oddly relatable.
There were so many ways this sequel could have been screwed up. ‘The Next Level’ wouldn’t have worked if it had the same core characters entering the game to become the same avatars from ‘Into The Jungle’, but the joy of the gaming concept is that those same characters don’t have to become the same avatars. Confused? Understandable. But it boils down to this: Though Dwayne Johnson played a neurotic teen boy playing a muscled, heroic god in ‘Welcome To The Jungle’, he now plays a grumpy, neurotic retiree playing a muscled, heroic god. Possibly no less confusing, but definitely hilarious.
While we all knew comedians Jack Black (playing Professor Oberon) and Kevin Hart (as Franklin Finbar) would make magic regardless of who they were mimicking, there’s always been doubters abounding around the Rock’s capacity to do more than raise eyebrows and flex muscles. But here, he absolutely nails the complexity of the characters he switches into – as do all the game avatar actors. And while Karen Gillan is the one with the least chance to show off her skills in a new role, she still manages to effortlessly steal focus from Dwayne’s smouldering gazes and ass-kicking moves and claim the movie as her own.
There are new players this time around, with the addition of Danny De Vito and Danny Glover ramping up the comedy and conflict brilliantly. At times, though, the movie skirts the line between comedy and unfunny stereotypes with the addition of older, non-gaming players, which really isn’t necessary given the infinite scope for comedy without reliance on overused tropes. But even with a few missteps, there’s a lot to love here.
This isn’t particularly intellectual fare (though there’s certainly a lot of meaning beneath the surface), but if you like your comedy cheesy, heartfelt, silly, and served with cartoonish violence, you’re probably going to love ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’.
‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ is in cinemas 26 December.