The new film in the Jumanji franchise may claim to be The Next Level, but is just more of the same video game hijinks, which, however, remain enjoyable because of the actors having fun adventures in an alternative universe.
Those who have not seen the earlier films might get confused, even though the two repeat players in the game keep explaining the rules to the two clueless new entrants. The film is about people getting sucked into an old-style video game console (in the original film 1995 starring Robin Williams, it was a board game) and taking on avatars that are nothing like their real selves. Think Danny DeVito in Dwayne Johnson’s body, and you get the idea.
Jake Kasdan uses the same actors in the avatars, but their human alter egos are different, so there is more bewilderment as they are flung into the wild safari that makes up the Jumanji game. So apart from the four teenagers, there are squabbling old men, Eddie (DeVito) and Milo (Danny Glover), who happen to be in the house when they are pulled into the game too; Milo gets the body of Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart), who then does a slow-speaking, pedantic zoologist act brilliantly, though Johnson’s attempts to ape DeVito are not as successful.
Spencer (Alex Wolff) — who got to be “The Rock” aka Dr Smolder Bravestone in the last film — is the first to disappear into the console screen after his heartbreak over Martha (Morgan Turner). Their friends Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) decide they must go in and bring him back.
Apart from Johnson and Hart, Jack Black, Nick Jonas, Rhys Darby (as the “Non Playing Character”) and Karen Gillian returning to the franchise — the female named Ruby Roundhouse is dressed in totally impractical shorts-crop top costume belonging to the era before political correctness — this sequel gets some new twists (to ensure franchise longevity) and a couple of new characters, including Ming, a cat burglar played by Awkwafina, who is hilarious.
Anything can happen in this imaginary world, the landscape can change from lush forest to desert. The players can be attacked by a herd of ostriches or be pitted against a Game of Thrones style villain, Jurgen The Brutal (played by Rory MCann).
It is not meant to make sense, the improbable risks the characters are put through are toned down by the three lives they get in the rules of the game, so nobody actually dies. It is amusing and thrilling in a juvenile way, and as forgettable as the taste of machine-made popcorn, a tub of which would make this movie go down better for audiences over the age of 18. If they venture into the theatre that is.