Film review: Jumanji - The Next Level

Jumanji: The Next Level is currently showing at Burnley's Reel Cinema
Jumanji: The Next Level is currently showing at Burnley's Reel Cinema

Christmas is just around the corner but it’s still a little too early to deal with an overstuffed turkey.

Unfortunately that’s the end result here in the second sequel to the beloved Robin Williams-led nineties classic “Jumanji”.

It’s not bad for an hour’s entertainment; too bad it runs for two.

The game got smashed to pieces at the end of 2017`s franchise reboot “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”.

That should have been the end of it.

You can blame dorky Spencer Gilpin (Alex Wolff) for this effort as he inexplicably repairs the cartridge, and, once again, ludicrous circumstances zap him and the rest of the motley crew; Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), Bethany (Madison Iseman) and Martha (Morgan Turner) into the world of Jumanji alongside his grandad Eddie (Danny DeVito) and estranged friend Milo (Danny Glover).

Once inside the video game they turn into Hollywood A-listers Dwayne Johnson (Dr. Smolder Bravestone), Kevin Hart (Franklin `Mouse` Finbar), Jack Black (Professor Sheldon `Shelly` Oberon) and Karen Gillan (Ruby Roundhouse).

“No, no, no! I'm the old fat dude! This can't be happening!”

However, the twist here is that although the avatars remain the same, the players have changed.

Football jock Fridge becomes Oberon, while Eddie and Milo become Bravestone and Mouse, before “Crazy Rich Asians” Awkwafina joins the party as new character Ming Fleetwood.

Phew! And breath!

Think I’ve managed to include everyone! I’m caught between The Rock and a Hart place as the cast truly is heavyweight.

Unfortunately for director Jake Kasdan that’s more a curse than a blessing as the film is front-loaded with so much talent it’s impossible to give everyone enough to do.

Kasdan is the son of legendary “Raiders of the Lost Ark” writer Lawrence and he should have leant on his dad here. That was an ingenious masterpiece and one of the most deliriously funny adventure movies ever made.

Here the apple falls far from the tree as junior directs the action sequences as if he intends to suck all the life out of them. There`s no sense of escalation to any set piece, leaving us

with, let’s be honest, a body-swap comedy, minus any real laughs.

How many times must we hear the same joke about old people and video games?

Filming for this began in February and wrapped in May for a December release. That’s an almost unheard of turnaround for a tentpole-movie and it shows, visibly straining to justify its existence beyond the desire for profit.

Instead of attempting to push the video game tropes further by taking a big creative swing at the genre with glitches, debugs or cheats, for example, we`re given Johnson and Hart mimicking Danny`s DeVito and Glover.

Sure, the gimmick works for a while but amidst a steam of clichés and second-rate action scenes the overall objective remains the same; retrieve a gem, defeat an uninteresting villain (keep an eye out for the nod to “Game of Thrones”) and escape back to reality before losing all three of their in-game lives. Sound familiar?

“Jumanji: The Next Level” is more rehash than upgrade. Much like its long-winded non-player guide (Rhys Darby) this movie plays like an irritating cut scene you frantically bash the buttons on your controller to skip.

Box this up in the attic and play an old fashioned board game instead.