The previous movie Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle was considered the sequel nobody asked for, yet managed to reinvent the story and proved to be great family fun, taking nearly $1billion at the box office.
Fast forward two years and we have the sequel or being pedantic, the third Jumanji film, if you count the first.
The writers have managed to create a vaguely plausible scenario in which the youngsters might re-enter the video game, whilst freshening up their avatars by mixing up the characters in interesting ways.
Danny DeVito and Danny Glover get early appearances and their character traits are carried over into the game where we meet our heroes again. “Bravestone” (Dwayne Johnson), “Mouse” (Kevin Hart), “Oberon” (Jack Black), and “Ruby” (Karen Gillan).
What order and who plays who is half the fun, the writers enjoy mixing and matching more than once through the running time. The main group are joined by a new character “Ming” (Awkwafina), returning “Seaplane” (Nick Jonas) and NPC (Non-Player Character) “Nigel” (Rhys Darby).
The story is largely a loose framework to link a series of daring escapes ranging from dangerous giant ostriches to marauding mandrills on rope bridges. The team’s aim is to reach a showdown with the end level baddie, “Jurgen the Brutal” (Rory McCann) with at least one “life” left.
CGI by necessity is used widely and at times is noticeably fake, with few scenes likely filmed in the “real world”. But no matter, the movie unashamedly sets out it’s stall as a fun family film and largely delivers.
The younger stars standing in for the more famous faces get more screen-time this time out and get a chance to make something of their scenes. De Vito of course steals every scene he is in, displaying great physical comedy and wringing a laugh out of every line.
Glover adds more through the act of Hart mimicking him as his avatar, rather than in person, while Jack Black makes the most of his changing alter ego’s. There is a tacked on relationship patch up for the two pensioner characters, unnecessary but adds a glimmer of pathos to the craziness.
Gillan gets to kick serious butt and does so with some style and the Rock does his usual Rock thing, which is good enough for this genre. Awkafina has great fun riffing on De Vito’s character when given a chance, further extending her range.
As expected not as good as the first of the new series, but the writers have rung the changes well enough to earn decent money at the box office, green-lighting a third (or fourth) likely final outing.
Try watching the trailer without cracking the first inkling of a smile and if you are wondering why a black horse appears in the films poster, the goofy answer is in the movie.
A fun family film that does what it says on the tin and despite the law of diminishing returns, worth spending a couple of hours in the company of these likeable characters.