Jumanji: The Next Level (2019, 12A)

Growing up in the 90’s, Jumanji was one of those classic films that filled your childhood with both adventure and trepidation. As quite a sheltered and somewhat sensitive child, there were certain parts of the original 1995 Jumanji that filled me with fear, the giant crocodile swimming through the house, the prospect of being turned into a monkey and of course the obvious, that an everyday board game (something our 90’s childhood was filled with) could have that power to bestow upon you such horrors. Even the sound of those drums can send shivers down your spine. Still despite the fear, it was such a good film, one that we watched again and again. When they announced the remake (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, 2017) I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to see how they would remodel and interpret the childhood classic. And I was not disappointed. Although the 2017 version had its own unique and quirky style, I personally felt that it really did the original justice, sticking very closely to the theme and ideas whilst giving it an admirable modern twist. When I heard about the sequel in the franchise (Jumanji: The Next Level, 2019), I just hoped it would live up to both the original and remake, after all how many sequels actually turn out to be flops.

Jumanji: The Next Level (2019, rated 12A, directed by Jake Kasdan), pretty much does exactly what it says on the tin, it is still the story of Jumanji, a mysterious game that sucks people into its own version of reality, forcing them to complete various challenges, and in this instance the players reluctantly renter the world of Jumanji to essentially save one of their own. What I found very poignant however is as the film starts we are reintroduced to the main characters seen previously, Spencer (played by Alex Wolff), Fridge (played by Ser’Darius Blain), Bethany (played by Madison Iseman) and Martha (played by Morgan Turner), it very obvious that these teenagers are not only going to be battling the next level of the game, but clearly and importantly they are entering the next level of their lives. And as we well know, that process doesn’t always run smooth.

Spencer is in the game and his beloved friends quickly realise that they are going to have to go in after him if he has any hope of coming out alive. They anticipate it will be just like last time, they’ve beaten it once, they can do it again. But by some freak accident, Spencer’s grandad (played by Danny DeVito) and friend Milo (played by Danny Glover) get sucked into the game too and the process of confusion and misunderstanding starts all over again. As Jumanji’s world opens up once more it quickly becomes apparent that it is not going to be as easy, or difficult more accurately, as these teens thought. Doctor Bravestone (played by Dwayne Johnson), Mouse (played by Kevin Hart), Oberon (played by Jack Black) and Ruby (played by Karen Gillan) return as our game characters and as before, their skills and teamwork will be tested to the absolute limit if they are to survive.

A fantastic twist in this sequel is that these characters, that we already know and love, are now representing different people, meaning their portrayal and acting is somewhat altered to what we’ve seen before. I have to applaud the actors here, every single one of them does an amazing job of taking on varying roles, and the way they portray the numerous personalities and traits of these individuals is admirable. I think that sometimes it is can be far too easy to lose a high level of good acting within a comedy (and this film is VERY funny) but I personally thought that every role they played was so believable, even presenting quirks and likenesses of the other actors they were interpreting. For me, this really made the film, so interesting to see great acting at work.

Of course in true Jumanji style as the film continues we see various exhilarating challenges and puzzles, twists and turns and even see some new characters introduced (Awkwafina plays Ming and Nick Jonas returns as Seaplane).  We see character swaps which I thought was another interesting twist on the original idea (highlighting again the great acting presented) and the ending has a real meaningful and heart-warming sentiment, which admittedly brought a tear to my eye. All in all I felt this sequel again stuck brilliantly to the themes and original ideas of Jumanji, whilst again having its own twists that makes it unique. In my opinion, it was definitely worth making that sequel, a great watch.

Reviewed by: Cailey Wickham

Released: 11th December 2019 (UK)

Director: Jake Kasdan

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