Meewella | Critic

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Tag: Dwayne Johnson

QuickView: Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)

“Why does everybody keep dropping from the sky?”

Mouse Finbar

Where Welcome to the Jungle felt unexpectedly fresh, its sequel feels like a safe cash-in. As a direct sequel, The Next Level finds some additional mileage in the formula by mixing up the now university-age characters inhabiting the various videogame avatars, as well as throwing in two old folks for good measure. The most fun to be had is in Dwayne Johnson’s impersonation of Danny DeVito, replacing his adolescent awkwardness in the previous film with an irascible lack of awareness. At nearly two hours, The Next Level overstays its welcome despite some energetic action set-pieces. The premise remains frequently fun but weaker character arcs provide limited depth and what should feel wildly exotic feels disappointingly familiar.


QuickView: Rampage (2018)

Rampage quad poster

“You do know there are other ways of dealing with people, right?”

Dr Kate Caldwell

Brad Peyton returns to direct another Dwayne Johnson action vehicle, this time loosely inspired by the 1986 Midway arcade game, in which players controlled a trio of oversized creatures wreaking havoc on a city. Working backwards from this inevitable conclusion, we begin with contemporary fears about CRISPR being misused by cookie-cutter villains. Rampage is big, dumb fun when it’s let off the leash. Sadly that requires enduring a painful middle act that focuses on the uniformly uninteresting supporting characters. Johnson believably sells his relationship with George the gorilla, whose confusion at his own chemically-induced violent urges reflects to some degree the present crisis of masculinity. Which is somewhat ironic given that the movie is at its strongest when letting us cheer gleefully as the creatures lay waste to a hilariously ineffective military assault.


QuickView: Moana (2016)

“If you wear a dress, and have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess.”


Thus does Disney justify its tradition of princesses living on. Whilst Pixar looked south of the border to Mexico for Coco‘s inspiration, Disney Animation Studios ventured a little further to the Pacific Islands for Moana, which teaches us that it’s not the size of your boat but whether you’re chosen by the ocean. Moana draws principally from Polynesian folklore about the trickster Māui, where a strong oral tradition leaves it perhaps at greater risk of being subsumed by the Disney machine in the absence of fixed versions of any tale. It is welcome, then, that the Islanders’ historic seafaring tradition of wayfinding and outrigger canoes also plays a central role, along with a score that reflects their musical heritage. The expected Disney musical numbers are satisfying, though the only standout is How Far I’ll Go (particularly as performed by Alessia Cara over the credits).


QuickView: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

“It’s a lot easier to be brave when you’ve got lives to spare. It’s a lot harder when you only have one life.”

Dr Smolder Bravestone

When Jumanji was first announced, I expected a lazy nostalgia cash-in. It was a pleasant surprise to find a thoughtful and fresh take on the jungle adventure. Although boardgames are now in vogue once more, a shrewd move is for the original movie’s cursed game to transforms itself into a 90s console cartridge before being discovered in the present day by four schoolkids in detention. The use of outdated 90s videogame tropes as characters, inhabited by the minds of these children, allows for smartly written conflict and self-discovery. The highlight is undoubtedly Jack Black’s performance as a phone-obsessed teenage girl, whilst Dwayne Johnson ably undercuts his own typical charismatic presence with a believable lack of self-confidence. Meanwhile, intentionally clunky 90s videogame exposition and level structure keeps the pace swift in this fun comedy-adventure.


"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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