Jake Kasdan‘s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was the surprise hit of 2017 and was a semi-sequel/reboot of Joe Johnston‘s 1995 Jumanji, starring the late Robin Williams. Only two years later, we now have Jumanji: The Next Level – which sees the ensemble cast returning for a new adventure in the perilous video game.
This story is set after the previous film, with Fridge, Bethany and Martha all having moved on with their lives but Spencer has hit a rough patch. In a desperate attempt to re-live his glory days as Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), he re-enters the video game world of Jumanji. Going after him, in hopes of rescuing him, his friends are joined by Spencer’s grandpa Eddie (Danny DeVito) and Milo Walker (Danny Glover), who have now inhabited the bodies of Bravestone and Mouse Finbar (Kevin Hart). With only three lives, and whole new levels to explore, the team must band together to rescue Spencer and save Jumanji once again!
It’s rare to find a sequel that matches its predecessor in quality, yet Jumanji: The Next Level succeeds with flying colours, with fun action set-pieces, plenty of gags and enough new elements to distinguish it from the last. There’s much wider scope, with the action starting in the jungle, moving to a desert, a rain-forest and then to snow-capped mountains, which gives a nice sense of visual variety, even if it only makes sense in the video game mechanics of Jumanji. The film has a similar set-up, with villain (Rory McCann) haven stolen one of the jewels of Jumanji but this feels more like a neat meta-gag, an “of course they have to get another jewel” plot-line from the video game’s obligatory sequel.
We also get to see Johnson playing DeVito, which is as much fun as it sounds. Johnson commits wholeheartedly to the character, being so recognisably DeVito that I almost forgot I was actually watching a completely different actor. It’s such a radical departure from the last film which adds a really nice dynamic. However, it was Kevin Hart who really surprised me in this film with his Danny Glover/Milo Walker characterisation. In the last film, Hart was to some extent playing an exaggerated version of himself, but here delivers a wildly different performance and manages to capture heartfelt moments throughout. He’s very funny – as to be expected – but he aims for a different kind of humour and it works brilliantly. Meanwhile, Jack Black plays Fridge this time to great comic effect, whilst Karen Gillan is the only one to keep her character as Martha. Awkwafina plays a new avatar in the film, whilst Nick Jonas returns in his Seaplane role, although in unexpected and interesting circumstances. The leads all have a lot of fun, with Awkwafina being a brilliant new comic aide to the rest of the ensemble and a horse turning up out of nowhere to get a few laughs (trust me, it makes sense in the film).
There seems to be more confidence this time, many key beats from the previous film are repeated with the new characters, which highlights how different the dynamics are. Johnson and Hart are brilliantly funny, and Black gets a few good moments too, but this film also highlights how great an action star Gillan is, managing to sell some very over-the-top sequences but not becoming a one dimensional action-girl. If there is a weak link among the cast, it’s with Rory McCann‘s villain. McCann himself is perfectly fine in the role but there’s nothing unique to him. His scenes feel too short to really provide a sense of character and with his costume, he looks like he’s stepped straight off the set of Game of Thrones.
Despite this, Jumanji: The Next Level is a lot of fun throughout, and it was nice to switch off my brain and enjoy a ridiculously fun adventure film. There are issues – the villain and some emotional beats don’t always land – but they don’t overwhelm how perfect this is as classic family entertainment.
Jumanji: The Next Level comes to Digital on 4 April, and Blu-ray/4K UHD on 13 April. Order now https://amzn.to/2R36gsk
As always, a wealth including the now almost, all famous, gag reel, which also shows Hart struggling to keep a straight face when being very serious, and very good, all the time:
- Gag Reel
- “Rhys Darby Wants To Jingle”: How do you top Jack Black and Nick Jonas’s unforgettable theme song for the first one? Everyone’s favorite Non Player Character, Rhys Darby is ready to take it to the next, next level.
- “Body Swapping: Snapping Into Character”: “In the latest Jumanji adventure, the avatar roles are turned on their heads with new characters and hilarious performances.”
- “Back Together: Reuniting the Cast”: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Jack Black are back and better than ever as they share their excitement to reunite.
- “Level Up: Making Jumanji: The Next Level”: From breathtaking scenery, wild adventure, new characters and more- go behind the scenes with the cast and crew as they take Jumanji to the Next Level.
- “Scene Breakdown: Ostrich Chase”: Jump in your dune buggy and go inside the epic ostrich chase scene as the filmmakers and visual effects team breakdown the creation of this memorable scene.
- “Scene Breakdown: Mandrill Bridges”: Moving rope bridges, giant mandrills and incredible stunt work make the mandrills attack one of the most adrenaline pack parts of this film. In this scene breakdown, see how they pulled it off.
- “Awkwafina Cat Burglar”: To prepare for her roles as pick pocket, Ming Fleetwood, superstar Awkwafina got a little too method behind the scenes.
- “NPC Confessions: Jurgen The Brutal”: Being the bad guy isn’t all glory. Jurgen The Brutal gets real in this candid confessional.
- “Grow Up:” Danny DeVito and Danny Glover help Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart get in touch with their inner grumpy old men.
- “Telenovela”: Kevin Hart gets lost in translation in this melodramatic promo.
- “VFX Pre-Vis: Zeppelin Battle”: Compare the detail of the visual effects pre visualization reel and the final picture breakdown of the thrilling Zeppelin battle.
- “VFX Pre-Vis: Ostrich Chase”: Track the progression from pre-visualization to finished scene in a side by side comparison of the ostrich chase.