Ahh Jumanji. An evil board game turned evil video game. Because hey, it is 2019.
Jumanji: The Next Level is the sequel to Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, duh.
The movie starts with a cute little sequence of the four friends from the first movie – Spencer (Alex Wolff), Martha (Morgan Turner), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) – living their lives since graduating high school. Spencer and Martha are in college, Fridge is a football player and Bethany is travelling around the world as part of a volunteering program. It’s Christmas time so of course, a reunion is in question. They form a plan in a Whatsapp group chat and everyone is excited.
Everyone except Spencer.
Spencer is seen having a rough time at college and isn’t as keen to see the whole gang again. The movie later reveals that he’s no longer in a relationship with Martha in a conversation he has with his Grandpa Eddie (Denny DeVito). Before meeting his friends, Spencer pulls out the game of Jumanji – wait, didn’t they smash it with a basketball in the previous movie? How’d it ended up in Spencer’s hands? Spencer attempts to fix the game and we see the TV screen light up.
Cut to the reunion scene and everyone wonders where Spencer is. They go to his home to find Grandpa Eddie and his old friend Milo Walker. They look around the house for signs of their dear friend and finds Jumanji beside Spencer’s belongings. The Jumanji drums start beating and that’s when both the characters and the audience know that it’s time. Time to play.
Martha, Fridge, Eddie and Milo get sucked into the game. Since the game is busted, they were randomly assigned characters instead of given the privilege of choosing as they did in the earlier film. Martha returns back as Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) whereas Fridge has switched into Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black).
Milo now plays Franklin ‘Mouse’ Finbar (Kevin Hart) and Eddie is Dr Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson). And like the first film, the players get familiar with their avatars’ strengths and weaknesses and learn the how-tos of the video game. The audience gets a good laugh because Dwayne Johnson is essentially impersonating Denny Devito, while Kevin Hart mimics Danny Glover and Jack Black is now playing a black man. The game characters have upgraded to show added strengths and weaknesses. And sadly, Finbar is still allergic to cake. What a curse.
The team then meets Nigel (Rhys Darby) the NPC guide and their journey to finding Spencer and completing the game begins. The game characters are not the only ones who’ve upgraded – the entirety of Jumanji has. It’s no longer the jungle that we once knew and there’s something strange about the water. The characters go through a number of levels, some of which fairly resembles Disney’s The Lion King’s stampede scene and endless running video game Temple Run. The team meet old and new characters important to the storyline like Ming (Awkwafina) and Seaplane (Nick Jonas) and well, essentially saves the day. As expected.
And that’s the thing about Jumanji: The Next Level. The movie is kind of expected. Heck, it’s still one hell of a laugh – with such a talented cast, who can deny that it’s funny? But the storyline hasn’t changed all that much. It’s a repeat of Welcome to the Jungle, but just… done in another way. Another setting. With added personalities.
Sure it’s more flavourful now but it’s not the kind of film we’d rush to the cinemas for. Well, unless you really really really loved the first film. Was it good, though? Heck yeah! It was funny and they certainly got more imaginative! Want more sequels? Maybe not.
We’re not quite sure how else the directors and producers can milk from the current franchise, but for the sake of keeping the original 1995 Jumanji film magical, we think it may be time to stop. To end the franchise with a high like The Next Level instead of ending it after another sequel or two like Pitch Perfect 3.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
With such an amazing cast, it’s hard to not enjoy the film. Am I crazy for wanting to play the game now?
Story - 7/10
Direction - 7/10
Characterisation - 9/10
Geek Satisfaction - 7/10