3 out of 5
Given the commercial success that 2017's Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle had, it was inevitable that there would be a sequel. Do you know what? I've seen worse.
It's a computer game so naming the sequel "The Next Level" is smart and allows for another installment. I recall seeing the first one a couple of years ago and going in with low expectations from another reboot, another re-imagining, but what set the film apart was the cast and the sharp script. The story was predictable enough but the casting of Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan was genius. Nobody took themselves too seriously and we all had a fun couple of hour of pure escapism.
I'm please to say the team are back with the delightful addition of Danny DeVito, Danny Glover and Awkwafina. Again, more brilliant casting for a film that requires lots of hamming-it-up.
The Next Level, brings the original gang and director back together. There is the usual maguffin to get them in to the game and there they find that things are not the same as before. They are in different bodies and this is where a lot of the initial humour comes from. Watching Dwayne Johnson channeling the cantankerous Danny DeVito is laugh-out-loud funny, but not in an OTT way. Kevin Hart also gets to channel Danny Glover. The team also have different powers and weaknesses than before but Johnson retains his smouldering abilities!
The team have to get something from an evil overlord to reach their happy ending and along the way we have deserts, moving rope bridges, snowy mountains to climb - you get the idea. There's never any real peril. There are additional laughs along the way as the team figure out how to swap bodies themselves. We then get to see Awkwafina use her New York City roots to channel DeVito, which she does brilliantly. She even manages to hold her body as DeVito might. Kudos.
No one gets hurt. There is mild peril along the way and plenty of action. The heart of this film is the bond between the characters and the humour. There are life lessons and morality to be taught but that is secondary. The cast all look like they are having fun in this Jake Kasdan directed film. Normally if a cast look like they are having this much fun, the audience don't but I'm happy to report that it is fun. I laughed out loud many times as did the audience I saw this film with.
If you want a couple of hours of pure enjoyable escapism, you could do worse than grab a bucket of popcorn and watch this. There will undoubtedly be a third, which is set up n a post-credit scene. I'm not surprised. If they follow this formula, then bring it on!