By Darryl Goh
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle introduced the game-obsessed millennial generation to the Jumanji franchise. It was well-received to the tune of a box office just shy of a billion dollars. The sequel, Jumanji: The Next Level, is gunning for that billion again by largely relying on the same formula with a few new twists.
As seen from the trailers, the twists are that the crew did not get to choose their avatars and that they accidentally got baby boomers sucked into the game world with them.
Picture yourself trying to teach a senior how to use technology. There is a good chance that you have experienced this before, and you probably know how agonising it feels like. To see the exact thing happen for the first half of the film made my hair stand, and not in a good way. The lines felt cheap and tension was intentionally forced due to fit the stubborn boomer stereotype. I bet they would have added an “ok boomer” joke if the meme surfaced earlier during the filming.
The petty squabbles replaced what could have been more action or world exploration. I loved the action scenes – they kept me on the edge of my seat and the danger felt palpable thanks to the tribal-inspired, adrenaline-rushing music. Props to the music team for delivering a ridiculously appropriate soundtrack for gym rats to use.
I would have wanted to see some Jumanji world exploration, as all we got to see this time were shades of lifeless beige (the desert) and grey (the town and castle). This is a game world after all, and it would have been interesting to add a game-exclusive feature such as a glitch to spice things up. Sadly, any indication of them being in the game world disappeared once the grandpas got the hang of the game mechanics.
Performances from the cast of the first Jumanji film carried the rather straightforward plot, with extra credit going to Jack Black for playing both a teenage boy and girl. Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart’s chemistry in real life is magical, and while this film tried to capture it by having many scenes of them together, it crumbled because of the characters they played. Hart without his fast-talking is a disservice to his fans and moviegoers – that is where his improv side shines best. Nonetheless, they made good with what they were given.
Sequels have gone much worse before, and while I would have appreciated a different kind of twist, you cannot go wrong with a cliché lesson on the importance of family and teamwork. After all, Christmas is all about these fuzzy feelings, are they not?
Watch this film with your family and let them know that you are the expert when it comes to video games, so if you ever find yourself stuck in one with them, let them know who is in charge before you lose a life meaninglessly.