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Jumanji: The Next Level - DVD Review

Jumanji: The Next Level

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

SONY’S reboot of Jumanji emerged as a genuine surprise a couple of years ago… its success paving the way for the inevitable franchise-shaping sequel.

Well, prepared to be surprised again as that follow-up, Jumanji: The Next Level, emerges as another crowd-pleasing romp that thrives on the charisma of its leading cast and the ingenuity of its set pieces.

Set a little time after the events of Welcome To The Jungle, the sequel finds graduate Spencer (Alex Wolff) struggling to adapt to his new life in the city while his friends [and former gaming colleagues] seem to be getting on with their lives nicely. In a bid to rediscover his confidence, Alex ventures back into the video game.

But when his friends, concerned at his absence, arrive at his house to try and save him during a reunion weekend, the glitching cartridge doesn’t just pull them in, but also his grouchy grandad (Danny DeVito), along with his former business partner Milo (Danny Glover).

Hence, Dwayne Johnson’s rough and ready hero is now an avatar for DeVito (smouldering intensity and all), while Kevin Hart becomes Milo. Jack Black and Karen Gillan also find themselves occupying different personalities from the original group, while Madison Iseman’s Bethany returns in the unlikely form of a horse and Alex needs to be found.

If anything, most of the fun in this follow-up stems from seeing the central foursome play around with the opportunity to portray new personalities within the game, with Hart channelling Glover particularly well – and almost always generating a hearty laugh from his ability to over-analyse and talk too slow.

Johnson also has fun combining grouchy grumpiness with his usual action-man persona, while Gillan and Black also share some nice interplay amid the body swapping antics. Awkwafina also impresses once she enters the fray, heightening the girl power on show in an obviously pro-feminist way.

The only real character flaw comes in the form of Rory (Game of Thrones) McCann’s new villain, who isn’t afforded enough time to really make much of an impression.

But even so, returning director Jake Kasdan, along with fellow writers Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg, continually find new and adventurous ways to keep the action either fresh (as in the case of a revolving bridge showdown with vicious monkeys) or subversive, neatly riffing on some of the set pieces from their first movie.

And there’s also room for some emotional connection, with the journeys of DeVito and Glover’s elderly duo giving rise to some unexpectedly poignant moments late on.

Hence, while perhaps lacking the freshness of the original, Jumanji: The Next Level still manages to be as enjoyable as its predecessor, building on the likeability of its main characters while keeping audiences both suitably excited and emotionally invested.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 2hrs 3mins
UK Blu-ray and DVD Release: April 13, 2020