Jumanji: The Next Level

 

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More is definitely a case of less in this congested, confusing sequel to the sequel.

 

Jumanji: The Next Level

Game change: Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart

 

Sequels don’t have to be bad. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017) was a belated sequel to the original Jumanji (1995) and was much funnier and more inventive – and a surprising hit at the box-office. And where dollars go, regurgitations follow. What was a fine balancing act in the last film has been tipped off its axis here, with more elements thrown into the mix. So, the next level means more money, more stars, more locations and more confusion. All of which points to the fatal flaw in the franchise: video games can become very tedious very quickly when nobody knows the rules. It’s just not as fun when someone else is controlling the console, and even more so when they don’t know how to play. Complications ensue when a player can have more than one avatar and it all becomes meaningless when one participant is turned into a horse (“look at the size of your…”).

 

To recap: ‘Jumanji’ is the world’s most dangerous video game and its players, adopting avatars far removed from their own personalities, may never return to the real world. In the last film we had the fun of watching Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan playing completely disparate characters to themselves, with The Rock as a neurotic nerd, Jack Black as a flirtatious diva called Bethany, and so on. Much hilarity ensued. That, in effect, was the film’s comic raison d'être, with the Indiana Jones histrionics tacked on for dramatic effect.

 

Here, following a humdrum prologue featuring the original protagonists and a protracted squabble between Danny DeVito’s grouchy Grandpa and his old colleague Danny Glover, the film finds its way back into the game. Initially, more fun follows, with Kevin Hart playing a variation of Danny Glover, Dwayne as DeVito, and so on. But with the addition of more characters and the interchanging avatars, it all becomes terribly confusing and the comic momentum is lost. Furthermore, the film’s action set pieces involving a herd of killer ostriches, an army of monstrous mandrills and a band of brutal barbarians exert little dramatic effect, as we know it’s all just a game – and the CGI effects are hardly in the Lion King league. One can only hope that after this the game is up.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Awkwafina, Rory McCann, Alex Wolff, Morgan Turner, Ser'Darius Blain, Madison Iseman, Danny Glover, Danny DeVito, Rhys Darby, Colin Hanks, Lucy DeVito, Bebe Neuwirth.

 

Dir Jake Kasdan, Pro Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia, Hiram Garcia, Matt Tolmach, William Teitler and Jake Kasdan, Screenplay Jake Kasdan, Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg, Ph Gyula Pados, Pro Des Bill Brzeski, Ed Steve Edwards, Mark Helfrich and Tara Timpone, Music Henry Jackman, Costumes Louise Mingenbach.

 

Columbia Pictures/Seven Bucks Productions/Hartbeat Productions/Matt Tolmach Productions/The Detective Agency-Sony Pictures.

123 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 11 December 2019. Cert. 12A.