Jumanji: The Next Level movie review — This CGI-pumped reboot is painfully removed from the nostalgia of the 1995 original
You’ll find yourselves laughing at a couple of moments in Jumanji: The Next Level, but for the rest, there’s nothing in here that you would be bowled over by
Like a filler level in a video game that doesn’t add much to the story but is nonetheless quite a bit of passable fun, Jumanji: The Next Level is the very definition of a big-budget Hollywood sequel. If you dug the reboot from a couple of years ago, you’ll find yourselves laughing at a couple of moments in the new film, but for the rest, there’s nothing in here that you would be bowled over by. But if you’re looking this film up and reading this piece, chances are you’re already into this silly fantasy franchise and are curious where the world-building goes forward. The simple answer to the question is, at the cost of a video game pun, a mere click away.
We reintroduced to Spencer (Alex Wolff), who now shares space with his granddad (Danny DeVito), and returns to the world of Jumanji – except this time things get mixed up and people from the previous film play each other. There’s another quest set in motion – getting some jewel from a villainous white man who has stolen it from an indigenous tribe.
In the previous film, all the narrative arcs came to a conclusion, but because it made so much money every closure that it offered opened up new orifices for a sequel to work, which means compromising on conflict, motive as well as character development. The solution seemingly is to raise the level of CGI set pieces, but the film only proves that more visual effects are never a practical solution to avert the disease that is 'Sequelitis.' What use does a sequence full of CGI ostriches serve, you may ask when said scene transpires, but it’s just one of the many head-scratchers that leave you wondering whether the filmmakers put the money on the wrong money shots.
Sure, we get a lot more of the mismatched comedy that the first film offered, particularly with The Rock and Karen Gillan playing against their type, but the gags have now gotten familiar. Danny Glover and DeVito overplay the tired old man turned into hunky bods joke while Jack Black remains the exact same stock comedy machine that one expects of him. It works where it is supposed to, of course, but more akin to a factory product targeted towards a certain base than a film made for artistic reasons.
More than anything, Jumanji: The Next Level is painfully far away from the simple nostalgic delights of the 1995 film. Even if the CGI has aged badly, there was a great big heart in that movie, which is utterly missing here. Upgrading the gaming aspects was a nifty touch in the 2017 movie, but this time it only goes to the next level on a titular level than a narrative or emotional one. Fleeting moments of swashbuckling scenery does not make a blockbuster – a story with well-rounded characters and believable conflicts does. The world that it shows is full of life, and yet the movie is lifeless; the scale that it offers is massive, and yet very little of consequence occurs. A less is more approach might have been a more useful strategy, given that blockbuster cinema has increasingly begun to resemble theme park rides.
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