There are only really a couple of reasons for reading film reviews. The first is to find out if a movie is any good and the second is to gain some insight and analysis into the deeper context and meaning of what is played out on screen. Well this is Jumanji so there is no deeper context and meaning. Seriously this film is all surface. It might hark back to the classic adventure serials of the 30s and 40s but come on, it’s no Raiders of the Lost Ark. Perhaps there is something here about wrestling with social identity or maybe it is making a statement about the dangers of losing yourself in computer games but you don’t need to shake it very hard for all of that to fall away. Should we be examining the gender politics and how it seems to both criticise and uphold stereotypical representations of women? I guess you could but while Karen Gillan doesn’t challenge Hollywood’s idea of the perfect female form, neither is she impossibly toned and with her slightly knobbly knees she is actually shaped like a lot of normal thirty two year old women. Also the camera does not linger over her any more than any of the other characters and she does get a pair of trousers and a full length pully for the last forty minutes so there, we’ve dealt with that.
Which brings us back to the first question: is Jumanji: The Next Level any good?
Yes, it is. Just as with the previous film this one is a tremendous amount of fun.
In many respects it is more of the same; endearing characters, enjoyable set pieces, laugh out loud one liners, slightly rude jokes about gender specific body parts but nothing bawdy or inappropriate for children (at one point I had to explain to my ten year old daughter what a eunuch is and with her new knowledge she found that the following three minutes of screen time was the funniest thing in the world) all packaged together in an easy to enjoy adventure. If you’ve seen and enjoyed Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle then there are no great surprises here but there are plenty more treats.
This isn’t to say there’s nothing new. On the off chance that you’ve not seen the trailer, which gives away most of the best bits, I won’t spoil anything here but I will say that Dwayne Johnson and Jack Black’s ability to play what it is like having totally different people trapped inside their bodies continues to be impressive. All of the cast play with this nicely but Dwayne and Jack are still the best.
If you’ve not seen the first/second/third* Jumanji film then you might want to catch up with it first as knowing the back story will enhance your enjoyment of this but if you were surprised by that one and are worried that this won’t live up to it then you need not have any concerns. There, is that what you wanted to know?
*Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle set up a whole new cast and story but did follow on from the 1995 Robin Williams film and actually this latest instalment strengthens those links. There was also a sci-fi movie called Zathura in 2005 (directed by John Favreau no less) that also takes place in the same reality.