When sequels are created off the back of what was a successful first film, as a viewer, it’s hard to decide whether you want much of the same that you enjoyed previously, or whether you want something new. It is also difficult when it comes to sequels, for films to keep that quality and same energy that was so beloved from the first movie. With Jumanji: The Next Level, however, they have managed to bring together the best of both worlds.
Set a year after the events of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, new film Jumanji: The Next Level follows Spencer (Alex Wolff), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) who are now no-longer high school students and have gone their separate ways. Still keeping in touch with each other, they all make plans to meet up at the end of the year in their hometown. Spencer comparing his friends lives to his own, feels worthless, unsuccessful and irrelevant, deciding to dive back into to the world of Jumanji, which helped him cope with his anxiety and gave him a place where he felt strong and relevant.
When Spencer doesn’t show up to their reunion, Fridge, Martha and Bethany head over to Spencer’s house to investigate, and soon, after realising what had happened, decide to go back into the game to rescue him. Unfortunately, the game is kind of busted and ends up sucking up Spencer’s cranky old grandfather Eddie (Danny Devito) and his estranged friend and ex-co-business owner Milo (Danny Glover) into Jumanji by mistake. And thus, both hilarity and chaos ensue.
Starring everyone’s favourite person, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson returns as avatar Dr Smolder Bravestone and doubles as reluctant gameplayer, grandpa Eddie. Funny man, Kevin Hart is back as backpack wielding zoologist Franklin ‘Mouse/Moose’ Finbar with character Milo behind the reins. Hart plays a somewhat more subdued role, portraying Milo’s persona within his avatar body, fully equipped with an excessive amount of long-winded stories and providing many hilariously entertaining moments. Karen Gillan is as kick-ass as ever in her role as game avatar Ruby Roundhouse with impeccable comic timing, still manned by her original player Martha. Last but not least, Jack Black almost steals the show as avatar Professor Sheldon ‘Shelly’ Oberon who is embodied in turns both Fridge and Bethany throughout the film. Personally, I prefer it when Jack Black takes on Bethany’s persona, but that’s just me.
While I still believe the Jumanji: Into the Jungle is a better film and one that I prefer over this sequel, this isn’t to say that Jumanji: The Next Level is bad. If anything, the team behind this blockbuster sequel have done their very best to provide a fresh and exciting new storyline with its own unique twists. Although, I must admit, while watching Jumanji: The Next Level, I found myself missing the dynamic between the characters that I adored from the first feature. Despite eventually being given what I wanted in the end due to the clever plot twist, personally, it still didn’t feel the same.
The on-screen chemistry between the actors is dynamite, particularly with Johnson and Hart. You can tell that not only do these actors work very well together and clearly have a friendship outside of this film, but I was almost envious with how much fun it looked like they were having playing these now beloved roles. I also found myself wanting to see the ‘real world’ characters more, as having watched the original film, I felt invested with characters (in their own bodies, kind of confusing but you get the gist).
The costuming and special effects to create the world of Jumanji, feel a lot nicer, crispier, visually attractive and expensive, like they really threw a crap load of money into this film as opposed to its predecessor. I’m not complaining. It just looks great and I have no doubt that it will do well at the box office for its high profile cast alone.
Jumanji: The Next Level provides fun and silly light entertainment, taking viewers on a new adventure in a fresh storyline not to be taken too seriously, while also injecting heartwarming and endearing moments that are enjoyable for the whole family. I really enjoyed watching this one on the big-screen and if you are a fan of any of the actors, the initial film, or just want a good laugh, then this is the Boxing Day release for you.