Jumanji: The Next Level
- Kevin Harley
- 10 December 2019
This festive, reassuringly familiar sequel adds some grumpy old men to the mix
In 2017, director Jake Kasdan landed a box office KO with his video game-themed upgrade of the 1995 board game-sprung adventure. The sequel is too rammed with repeats of its predecessor's key moments to qualify as truly next level, but it offers just enough twists to stand apart from this year's more tepid franchise revisits. Although the character frontline gets crowded, the extra scope afforded for retro fun by a batch of new recruits helps offset an over-reliance on recycled body parts gags.
The main additions this time are Danny DeVito's winningly crabby old-timer Eddie and his mellow pal Milo (Danny Glover), both of whom join the last film's mixed-bag teens – jock, nerd, cheerleader, brainy girl – in Jumanji's game world after Eddie's grandson Spencer (Alex Wolff) zaps himself back in. The all-ages spread stretches its predecessor's nostalgic, Breakfast Club-style premise to accommodate Grumpy Old Men-like routines: cue jokes about hips and hairlines.
As the real-world characters occupy video game avatars, Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black have fun playing against type; notably, Johnson makes a surprisingly natural OAP. So does Awkwafina, who steals scenes blithely with her late-on arrival. By contrast, Karen Gillan (as man-killer Ruby Roundhouse) is forced to spend too much time doubling as an expositional device, at least until the boilerplate narrative brings her men and mandrills to dropkick.
Pivoting on a quest to retrieve a shiny MacGuffin from Rory McCann's cookie-cutter evil warlord, the plot is mostly a springboard for a deluge of vertiginous set-pieces, hairy animal encounters and cheesy jokes. But at least Kasdan keeps things agreeably brisk and broad, a few regressive gags about balls and breasts aside. Dashes of seasonal sentiment complete the picture in an amiable, albeit unadventurous sequel; it's festive fun for anyone in need of the reassuringly familiar.
General release from Wed 11 Dec.