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.
“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 The use of outdated 90s videogame tropes as characters, inhabited by the minds of these children, allows for smartly written conflict and self-discovery.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.