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Jumanji: The Next Level (2019) Review

by Ian Morton

Around this time of year, the cinema is packed with tentpole blockbusters and critically panned Christmas fodder. Whether you love the films at this time of year or not, it almost doesn’t matter what the reviews say, an unlikely hit can spring up if everything comes together just right.

Like catching lightening in a bottle, the 2017 reboot, ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’, knocked it out of the park by setting a strong foundation and capturing the original family adventure feel. Even if it never managed to rise above its 3 star reviews (out of 5), it went on to garner an impressive haul of cash over the Xmas break and a gather a brand new audience at the same time. 2 years later and Jumanji: The Next Level is back in an adventure that emulates its predecessor in every way. It has the same cast of characters, the same fetch-quest plot but this time unfortunately, one less star.

Having kept the pieces of the broken adventure game, the awkward member of the gang, Spencer, jumps back into Jumanji having struggled to get to grips with the world outside the nefarious cartridge. Upon discovery that he has started another playthrough, the rest of the gang find themselves pulled back into the Jumanji sandbox for a rescue mission. Once booted up as their characters however, the film takes a turn as our heroes find some unwitting stowaways have entered the fray; Spencer’s grandfather, Eddie and his friend, Milo.

What still works the most about the franchise is that it managed to update the story for a modern audience. Opening the world up with a video game motif is a genius way to hook in younger audiences and the cast of characters are fun to watch as they work out their avatars special abilities and nuanced weaknesses. If it ain’t broke, why fix it, eh?

What doesn’t work however, is just how boring the plot is. The writers, clearly blindsided by the idea of a sequel, have absolutely no idea where to take the potential franchise after the runaway hit of the original. It’s a rushed affair, setting a Usain Bolt pace early on in an attempt to hide a messy rinse & repeat formula, setting you up with our heroes not knowing where they are, finding all their answers in the map and then being chased by something at least 3 times in it’s 2 hour run time.

This idea-less approach is further felt in the films overuse of the same jokes and ear-aching script – yes, it’s funny that old people can’t play video games…it’s not so funny the 19th time you hear about it! Paired with some truly awful dialogue, and the result is a film that thinks you missed the joke the first time and consequently feels obligated to repeat it ten times louder. In the event of the inevitable third installment, they might as well pipe in canned laughter to remind the audience that its at least trying to be funny.

To say this is a genre movie may sound like damning with faint praise, but there really isn’t much else out there to describe it! If your wanting a couple of hours at the cinema with the kids, then it may just work for you – if however, your wanting a sequel to rival the best cinema has to offer, I would suggest The Godfather part 2!

Jumanji: The Next Level is out December 11th!

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