Looking back, it’s probably fair to say that one of my biggest cinematic surprised over the last few years was just how much I liked Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle. I went into the theatre back in 2017 expecting to be thoroughly disappointed by this franchise reboot of a more than beloved childhood favourite, but I came out having had an unequivocally delightful time! As far as I’m concerned, Dwayne Johnson and co. were about as successful in taking on a property and doing something new with it as you can be, and as a result I was very much looking forward to seeing what the next instalment had in store.
Thankfully, as it turns out, much of the same! Jumanji: The Next Level, picks up three years after the events of Welcome To The Jungle, when Spencer (Alex Wolff), dissatisfied with his new college life and missing the strength and courage of his in game persona Dr. Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), makes the decision to fix the broken video game and return to the danger and chaos. Dismayed but determined to save their friend, the original players also jump back in, with the accidental inclusion of Spencer’s grandfather Eddie (Danny DeVito) and his old friend and business partner Milo (Danny Glover)! As for how everybody manifests and which characters they become, you’ll just have to watch for yourself!
On the whole, Jumanji: The Next Level is just as fun and adventurous as its predecessor. There is no doubting that it does that classic ‘sequel thing’ of trying to fit in slightly too much plot and narrative in order to branch out from its 2017 introduction, but when you are having this much fun watching silly and crazy things taking place, you don’t mind a touch unnecessary complexity. One of the best things about Welcome To The Jungle was its simple, straight forward, literal video game style premise, and although The Next Level definitely feels like it tries to raise the stakes and bring a little more maturity and metaphor to the characters three years on, it still makes sure to add tonnes of new game rules and ideas that keep you entertained along the way.
A premise like this would probably be fun regardless of who is involved, but there is no denying that the cast assembled here are absolute gold. Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan are all back and just as good, if not better than last time around. Add to that the awesome additions Danny DeVito, Danny Glover and Awkwafina and it’s just a real joy from character to character.
The original ‘young’ cast from Welcome To The Jungle are all back for the connecting real world phases of the story, but its fair say that Alex Wolff, Ser’Darius Blain, Morgan Turner and Madison Iseman feel somewhat like place holders before we can get to the superstar filled video game world.
The layers of performance going on at times is hilariously impressive, from Dwayne Johnson doing a Danny DeVito impression to Kevin Hart doing a Danny Glover impression and lots of other permutations in between. Sometimes when you can tell the cast are having a blast, it doesn’t always translate to the same feelings for an audience watching the finished product, but that certainly isn’t the case here. I know the words ‘sequel’ and ‘remake’ are dirty ones for many in today’s cinematic landscape, but I really do feel that in this new take on Jumanji, those involved have really tapped into something that has the potential to go on and on without feeling tired for a long time.
Overall, I’m happy to say that I am big fan of this new Jumanji franchise. To have even considered rebooting something so synonymous with the genius of the late great Robin Williams was so risky, but it worked back in 2017 and it has worked again here in 2019. The Next Level is about as much fun as you can have on a proper family trip to the cinema these days. Thanks to its range of stars, its genuinely funny humour and its swashbuckling adventurous spirit, it is a film that will appeal to all ages. Bravo!