Welcome (back) to Jumanji!

The second part of an adventurous story about four youngsters exploring themselves, as well as the magnificent and dangerous world of Jumanji, has finally arrived at the big screen. Jumanji: The Next Level, directed by Jake Kasdan, continues the story of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and sends our beloved characters to rescue one of their own and save Jumanji again.

To start with: a discussion about the features which make this film special and worth watching. The biggest ‘wow’ is the cast. Even though blockbusters are quite often ’no-brainers’ and do not generally require great acting skills (as actors are often chosen to meet the style of a character), Jumanji is just different – it demands the transformation and rebirth of the identity. Jack Black is the best example of it – not only does he amazingly transform into Fridge with all his fiery masculinity and temper, but also Bethany – life-loving, confident girl with her inherent features like the art of flirting or attractive gait. Dwayne Johnson delicately reflected the mood of the grumpy gaffer, Eddie (Danny DeVito), who lost his meaning of life after retirement.

Secondly, the film’s humour and comicality are on the ‘next level’. Kevin Hart is just literally being Kevin Hart, making jokes about his weaknesses and dramatic outbursts. Also, a number of situations were funny just because of the character mirroring the traits of their ‘real-life’ counterpart, or trying to adapt to a new role. The NPC characters are also worth mentioning, they add some more spiciness and fun to the interaction between the characters.

Now, the few but very important downsides. The main one, from which the others come from, is the logistical unnecessity of the sequel. At the end of the first part, after returning from Jumanji, friends clearly destroyed the console and came away from it, so that should be it. However, it appears that Spencer (Alex Wolff) came back, repaired the console and returned to Jumanji. In addition, as canonical Jumanji up to now is basically the jungles, it felt odd to see the expansion of the universe to more remote places, like the snowy mountains or deserts. The addition of new characters like Eddie and Milo (Danny Glover) may be good for general appeal, but it doesn’t make any sense and just takes extra screen time as it’s necessary to explain all the rules of the game (which we learnt in the previous film) to them. They feel like side characters and it’s not that exciting to see the development of their pretty basic relationship.

In sum, Jumanji: The Next Level is a solid and worthwhile watch for a Friday evening with friends. It just doesn’t feel as natural and essential a continuation of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and because of that it, it falls short of its predecessor.

3 stars

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