Movie Review: Jumanji: The Next Level
The team behind Jumanji: The Next Level should count themselves lucky that I don’t feel a single shred of nostalgia for the original Robin Williams movie. Somehow watching that film as a kid a fair few times and never having it resonate with me on a level that was more than thinking it was merely alright, my lack of interest in the Jumanji brand has led me to this, Jumanji: The Next Level. Yet another endeavour into tearing away at the prized nostalgia and milking it dry for a quick few pennies, the latest in the series brings together a formidable cast in the hopes of gallivanting around the world of Jumanji for one more level.
It may surprise some readers to hear that I was a fan of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Quite a big fan actually, and I still to this day am unsure as to why it sat so well with me. Perhaps the comedy was on the right wavelength, or maybe it was the stress of needing the bathroom for the last hour of the running time, either way something sat well with the first iteration of the series. It’s a spark that they were unfortunately not able to bring across to the second outing of a series that already feels tired and complacent.
With the original group of cast members returning to follow their way into the now defunct and dangerous Jumanji videogame, we follow a group of teenagers as they save the world once more. With much of the action appearing throughout the in-game world, we’re saddled up with Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black and Kevin Hart, which is still quite the surprisingly enjoyable pairing of actors. Throwing the likes of Danny DeVito, Danny Glover and Awkwafina into the mix certainly helps a dire storyline that fails to engage with the same highs and lows as the first one.
With the first film, we had a recognisable villain in the form of Bobby Cannavale’s Russel Van Pelt, a name that sounds like it was ripped from a Lemony Snicket book. At least he was interesting, and his performance was too, providing us with a villain that was elusive yet on screen long enough to provide us with a realistic and recognisable threat. Jumanji: The Next Level lacks that power, wheeling out Rory McCann of Game of Thrones and Hot Fuzz fame as Jurgen the Brutal, a name so generic that I forgot it in the split second it takes to switch the tabs on my computer.
Jurgen is absent for much of the movie, as is anything of unique or really captivating interest. More or less the same set pieces as the first, or at least that’s what it feels like. Jumanji: The Next Level is certainly different in places, with a handful of nicely thought up set pieces littering a bloated running time. It never amounts to much though, rehashing all the jokes that worked in the first film of the rebooted series in the hopes that the lightning will strike twice. It doesn’t, and unfortunately we’re left with some groan inducing pieces of forced chemistry and weak willed jokes.
Something rather strange happened between the release of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Jumanji: The Next Level. Its cast aren’t on top form anymore, with the inclusion of a handful of recognisable faces feeling more like a mad grasp at relevancy than anything cognitive to the narrative. Unfortunately, the latest Jumanji feature can’t bring us to the next level. See what I did there? Go away.