In Review: Jumanji – The Next Level

The gang from the first re-boot are back.

Synopsis: The gang from the first re-boot are back. Spencer is having a tough time and misses his avatar persona of Dr Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) . In addition, they are joined by some new faces. This time round, Danny Glover and Danny Devito are a couple of old timers with a score to settle. Cue round two, and plenty of crazed mayhem . . .

Story

As a plot, the writing works well. Given, it’s not the next greatest piece of cinematic history. It’s not meant to be. Doesn’t have to be, to work. There are a lot of plot devices that conveniently work. What’s needed comes about. As the main thread of events takes place in the world of Jumanji, a video-game, it’s fair to say that to at least some extent the loose plotting is a reflection of a game. It’s hard to poke holes in what may or may not happen, when the entire premise is a bunch of people magically pulled into an old video-console.

Once things get moving, the path that the characters are on is laid out clearly. That’s what is important.Everyone in the film knows that they are headed for a showdown, and that the danger is real. The same concept as the first is present: three strikes and you die (if you die three times in the game you die for real). Again, this helps to have something real at stake. The goals that are trying to be achieved have plausible obstacles, and the ways round them never feel overly forced. The Well-paced pieces do what they should, to tell the scene’s significance, whilst keeping things moving towards the somewhat inevitable conclusion. It’s never in real doubt that the final showdown will only bring one ending, but because the journey is so much fun, that doesn’t really matter.

Once the final act of the film is in full swing, things are tied up well and the pay off for investing time in watching is worthwhile. So many things happen along the way that are amusing, that the occasional bit of unlikelihood is barely noticed. Not necessarily the aspect of the film that should be considered weakest, but the one that required the least attention.

Acting

This is where this film really comes into its own. Comedic acting is possibly among the most under-appreciated genre. Not easy to do well. It only really shows when it’s done well. It is here. With so much talent on show it’s hard to know where to start. Those that aren’t in the film for the majority of screen-time seems a reasonable place.

The gang from the first film, Spencer (Alex Wolff), Martha (Morgan Turner), Fridge (Ser’darius Blain) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) do what’s needed, and meet up before they all end up inevitably sucked back into the land of Jumanji. Spencer and Martha have been through a rough-patch and are on a break, so are both feeling a little awkward. It’s difficult to give any specific highlights from those who are in the “real world” of the film, as they aren’t what movie-goers are paying to see. That’s not to say they aren’t important at all. They all do a good job of being the counter-foils to the characters in the game of Jumanji.

We’re in the game now; the real fun begins. Spencer is missing, somewhere in the game’s world, and his friends have to come to help. This time though, Bethany isn’t there, straight away. Karen Gillan’s Ruby Roundhose, Jack Black’s geeky professor Oberon and Kevin Hart as Franklin Finbar are wonderful to watch as a unit. They create the kind of chemistry which can’t be forced. Oodles of hilarious situations and immaculately timed delivery. A sheer masterclass of physical comedy.

Awkwafina joins the party this time around, rocking the boat in the best possible way. It’s hard to imagine that she wasn’t there first time over. She showcases why she is one of the best comedy actors on the planet right now, and at times definitely steals the show. That she manages to shine among such stars she shares the screen with is the real testament to her presence. She even manages to impersonate Danny Devito’s trademark grumpiness, and possibly even capture some of the goofiness of the late, great Robin Williams.

The old guard of Glover and Devito deserve a special mention, as they show that it’s not all about the generation who are young now. Their bantering manages to express the at times slightly melancholic tone of getting older. They play up to being cantankerous and sick of life.

CGI&Action

Impressive visuals help to make a strong sequel, that continues to pay homage to the original film, whilst showing what advances in technical wizardry are now capable of. The animals look realistic, and those that have human attributes don’t look forced. This helps the action feel natural, which is important when considered in relation to the on-screen antics being a depiction of people in a computer-game world. If there is a little over-egging of the pudding, then that’s soon forgotten because of this element.

Another aspect of the film which is notably different from most films, is the use of colour. Again, the gaudy brightness seems a deliberate choice, and a thematic reflection of the fact that the action is happening in a “world within a world”. It’s easy to appreciate the sweeping scenery for what it is, and the whole feel creates a sort of meta-commentary, perhaps. The second installment of this graphically updated version of a 90’s classic keeps fun at the heart of everything, with some awesome stand out scenes for each character.

Overall

Taking everything into account, this film definitely works, for what it wanted to achieve. Maximum fun, with some good story arcs. Nothing too ambitious is required, in terms of depth. Back stories are expanded upon a little, and the gaps between films are managed well. The focus is on how to try and recapture the formula of the first film, without just repeating it, directly. Variations on a theme work brilliantly. There are new skills, fresh danger and drama. The expositions are well thought out, then executed with the right balance of emotional bumps along the way, and never far from the laughs which make it what it is. Modern, slapstick comedy somewhere near its strongest.

The newcomers really fit in with things, which may otherwise have stopped this movie from gelling. Rather than rocking the boat, they mean that the ride is all the more fun now. They manage to add to the established characters and give them extra spring-boards to bounce off. It’s hard to think of a film that will give as many laughs as this one, whilst maintaining a central story and leaving the door open for more. With this sequel as an example of how to continue achieving success, it’s surely only a matter of time. It will be interesting to see if they can keep on building on things. Let’s hope so.

8
Jumanji: The Next Level
  • Story
    7.1
  • Acting
    9.3
  • CGI&Action
    7.9
  • Incidental Music
    7.6
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