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‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ movie review: Lost in the wild

A still from ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’

A still from ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’  

Only Awkwafina and Jack Black manage to carry this ‘Jumanji’ sequel’s humour through to the finish line

Like with most sequels, reboots, franchises and calculated business ventures disguised as ‘entertainment’, Jumanji: The Next Level struggles to find a purpose. Why do we need this film? Beyond making money and merchandises, there seems to be no justifiable answer. Even the world-building — which is at the core of this film set in a video game — is as clichéd as clichéd gets, with characters entering familiar landscapes and yelling ‘We gotta get outta here!”. An unending desert, an oasis evil town that looks like a stereotype of the Middle East (of course), and a snow-capped climax — nothing inventive. As for execution, it is surprisingly sloppy at points, making me wonder if the effort to balance the 3D frames over my glasses was even worth it.

What’s new and kind of enjoyable is the body-swapping between characters in the game. Those who re-enter the Jumanji universe in the sequel, find themselves in mismatched characters this time around. Then when another bout of body exchanges follow, it’s supposed to be hilarious. But most of the cast, including Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, are unable to pull of the differences, and are rather inconsistent. It’s Awkwafina and Jack Black, with their goofiness, who show how it’s done, and the possibility of what could have been, if the film invested more in the characters, dialogues and plot, rather than just setting up a grand world that’s marketable. Awkwafina, especially, demonstrates how comedy can be done with a straight-face and not necessarily requires a high-pitched tone and exaggerated expressions.

Jumanji: The Next Level
  • Director: Jake Kasdan
  • Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Awkwafina, Alex Wolff, Morgan Turner, Madison Iseman, Danny Glover, Danny DeVito
  • Story line: Spencer, Fridge, Martha, and Bethany reunite after Spencer decides to re-enter the ‘Jumanji’ universe

There is barely any physical humour in Jumanji 2 that’s memorable. An adventure comedy, which has all the budget at its disposal, can do with better wit than taking jibes at eunuchs and severed ‘balls’ (which is censored in India). In the third act, there’s the familiar emotional drama, which hints at the next edition, as is the case with all franchise films that ride on routine. In this one, the emotions lie in an old friendship between ageing men and dwindling self-worth because of Instagram, literally. The placement of these two elements in the script is so calculated and forced that you can almost envision the execs sitting with the suits in a conference room, high-fiving each other at their collective genius.

The idea of ‘evil’ in the film is the same old desire for global control and destruction of indigenous peaceful tribes. A film that ushers you into the wild has so much potential to subliminally talk about the hot topic of the day: the climate crisis. But there’s no allegory here, and looking for one is a far-fetched dream, more so when the core tenets of this film — humour and adventure — are barely above average.

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Printable version | May 28, 2020 2:42:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/reviews/jumanji-the-next-level-movie-review-lost-in-the-wild/article30298401.ece

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