Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a film that I didn’t really have an interest in seeing in the cinema. I’d heard decent things about it, but it was one I thought would be as good to see when released on streaming/DVD. I just recently watched it and I found it to be a pretty decent film and a good bit of fun. So when I saw there would be advanced screenings of the third Jumanji film this weekend, I decided to give it a chance and this is another pretty decent film, although it doesn’t work quite as well as Welcome to the Jungle.
Following the events of Welcome to the Jungle, Spencer, one of the kids who was sucked into Jumanji in that film, has found himself plagued with insecurity and, in order to try and capture the feeling he had when he was Dr Smolder Bravestone in the game, has found the pieces of the game and put it back together to go into the game again. Finding out that he’d done that, his friends Fridge, Martha and Bethany resolve to go into the game to get him back, however, the work Spencer had done in the game didn’t fully work, meaning that most of the character avatars are switched and Spencer’s grandad Eddie and Eddie’s former business partner Milo are sucked into the game as well, with them having to find Spencer and complete the game to get back home. Now structurally, this film has a lot of the same bones as the previous film, with the whole body swap element of the game pretty much kept exactly the same, aside from the old people jokes coming from the video game characters acting like old men. As such, we don’t really get the same level of character development as we got in the previous film, there’s some for Spencer, Eddie and Milo, but not so much for Fridge, Martha and Bethany. Also, like the previous film, the video game plot is completely insubstantial, but unlike the previous film where there were more elements to the video game plot that helped advance the character development, there aren’t really many of those moments here.
The cast though help make the film work, all of them clearly having fun. Dwayne Johnson does a great job at imitating the vocal style and body language of Danny DeVito, who’s a lot of fun in his role, and a lot of the charm of the film comes through his performance. Kevin Hart meanwhile nails the voice and body language of Danny Glover, who has great chemistry with DeVito in their scenes together, and creates some of the best comedic moments in the film. Karen Gillan does a good job at playing Martha’s avatar, showing the increase in confidence Martha has along with a lingering element of insecurity Martha has. Jack Black meanwhile, following on from being the comedic highlight of the previous film playing a teenage girl, whilst here, playing Fridge’s avatar, Black has fun showing the contrast of an athlete in peak physical condition with, well, Jack Black and, again, he’s a comedic highlight. We also get good performances from Awkwafina and Nick Jonas, although to explain more would spoil the film and Rhys Darby, Rory McCann and John Ross Bowie are fun playing the video game characters.
On a technical level, there are some great elements of production design and cinematography that help to create a good adventurous atmosphere that suits the video game aesthetic of the film. The use of desert and mountain environments meanwhile creates a good contrast with the jungle environment of the previous film, giving a new feel to this film. The CG work is pretty solid for the most part, especially for the animals, although there are a few dodgy green screen moments here and there whilst the action scenes are decent enough but some of them are a bit too frenetically edited to make them fully engaging.
Overall, Jumanji: The Next Level is a pretty okay film. There is some fun to be had, especially with the cast and how game they are in their characters and the great chemistry they have with each other but the story here isn’t as strong as it was in the previous film and it feels like the motions of that previous film are being repeated rather than anything new being done with the idea of Jumanji compared to what the previous film brought. This film is pretty fun, but nothing more.
My Rating: 3/5