I was quite a big fan of the first Jumanji remake – Welcome to the Jungle, but couldn’t help but feel that a sequel was not really needed and would struggle to recapture the unique humour of the first one. Well I am so happy to admit that I was wrong and this sequel not only brings fresh new ideas but is arguably funnier than the first.

If you’re yet to get out to see Jumanji: The Next Level then fear not, there will be no major spoilers here but there likely will be spoilers for 2017’s Welcome to the Jungle and I will be working of the assumption that you’ve seen that movie.

The Next Level is set one year after the events of the first and our main characters have all gone off to college, gone travelling, or in the case of Ser’Darius Blain’s character – Fridge – been living in the gym for a year after the traumatic experience of being stuck in the tiny body of Kevin Hart. The gang is rounded out with Alex Wolff’s Spencer, Morgan Turner’s Martha and Madison Iseman’s Bethany. Unfortunately these ‘real life’ versions of the characters are just not that interesting compared to their video game counterparts. I felt this with the first movie and nothing has really changed in the sequel, the chemistry isn’t really there and anything outside of the video game feels like a terrible teenage drama. The pre-video game scenes do take up a heavy chunk of the first act but this is instantly forgiven as the film makers introduce us to Spencer’s Grandfather and former best friend – Eddie & Milo played wonderfully by the great Danny DeVito & Danny Glover. But how do they end up back in Jumanji given the console was destroyed? I’ll let you see for yourself though this time Eddie & Milo are both transported to the world of Jumanji and this adds a whole new dynamic which makes this sequel a fantastic success.

Hopefully this isn’t a spoiler as it’s in the trailer and been spoken about on the run-up to release, but this time some of the roles are reversed other than Martha who’s still using Karen Gillan’s avatar. The absolute best of these changes is Eddie (DeVito) finding himself in Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s body and Milo (Glover) in Kevin Hart’s body. Switching up their roles from playing teenagers in the first to playing pensioners in this film was an absolute stroke of genius, The Rock & Kevin Hart are hilarious in their new roles with Hart’s interpretation of Danny Glover being the undeniable highlight of the movie. Every scene he is in is absolute gold and had me belly laughing through the majority of the film. That’s not to say everyone else wasn’t funny, Jack Black was brilliant as always, Karen Gillan plays her role wonderfully and Nick Jonas & Colin Hanks (back as Alex) both pretty much continue where they left off in Welcome to the Jungle. But it’s Dwayne Johnson’s chemistry with Kevin Hart (which we all know about given their real life relationship) that is absolute comedic perfection and is worth leaving the house this Christmas to see this sequel purely for these two alone. Awkwafina (not to be confused with legendary Wycombe Wanderers striker Akinfenwa) is a new addition to the cast who’s role I won’t spoil. What I will say is that she gets off to a slow start before a plot twist in the third act gives her a chance to shine, then almost out of nowhere she becomes one of the stars of the show. Oh and I almost forgot, Rory McCann (famous for playing The Hound in Game of Thrones) plays the villain this time round but just like the first movie, the big baddy is so poorly written and such an afterthought that there’s not a lot to talk about here and that’s no fault of the actor. All in all though, The Next Level is all about the strength of its characters and most of them are able to shine in their own way.

The story is simple and predictable but serves its purpose as a great reason for these hilarious characters to exist. You can pretty much see exactly how it’s going to play out and bar that one plot twist in the third act, there’s really no major surprises in the direction of the story. That twist I mentioned is a weird one for me, it benefits some characters for sure but also takes away from others, I suppose it did the job of moving the story along and freshened things up a bit so I can see why the writers chose to do this. One of my main issues with the first films story was how they tried to force feed it’s audience a terrible emotional ending, again making the real life version of the characters come of as a cast from some awful romantic teen drama. Although the ending to this sequel attempts another emotional ending, it does manage to hit home a lot better than its predecessor. Though this is still a great comedy (of which there are many) where I just wish the writers would stick to what they do best and that’s comedy.

Given this is a comedy, the CGI isn’t going to be winning any awards any time soon and that’s perfectly fine. Same goes for the soundtrack, cinematography and all the other sort of things we look out for when talking about the best films of the year. Winning awards for best picture is not the reason The Next Level exists though, it’s here to make us laugh and give us a great family flick to watch over Christmas and it does that with resounding success. The Next Level is fun, full of laughs and is easy to watch. Sure it has some issues with the real life versions of the main characters being a bit lame but the video game versions are so hilarious (especially Kevin Hart) that it really doesn’t matter. If you enjoyed Welcome to the Jungle then you’ll definitely enjoy The Next Level just as much if not a bit more.

I give Jumanji: The Next Level

8.0 / 10

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