CHENNAI: The remake of the 1996 film “Jumanji” landed in 2017, with an alluring title “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” could be described as sequel of sorts after 22 years. It was a high-octave adventure set in a virtual world, with four teens getting into it through a video game in a drawing room. Each sank into a character from the game, proving a super hit with children and adults, letting their imaginations run riot and indulging in the fantasies they had always desired.
“Jumanji: The Next Level” makes it a trilogy. The jungle gets more challenging and the game scarier. For director Jake Kasdan and co-writers Jeff Pinker and Scott Rosenberg, these alone may not have been enough to avoid franchise boredom. So they add more to their latest plot by giving new avatars to some of the characters, and adding two new ones, played by the brilliant Danny DeVito and Danny Glover, who portray estranged business partners, Eddie and Milo.
The starting point is a breakup between asthmatic Spencer (Alex Wolff) and the sweet Martha (Morgan Turner). While their friends, football player Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) and forever online Bethany (Madison Iseman) are living it up, Spencer is depressed, and in a moment of weakness, decides to play the game, plunging into Jumanji. When his friends find out, they realize he cannot get out by himself and follow him, leaving Bethany behind, and taking Eddie and Milo.
A good part of the film’s freshness comes with the twist it throws up: Some of the virtual characters from the 2017 adventure take on different avatars. Spencer wanted to become the strong and suave Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) from the previous adventure, but is transformed into pickpocket/cat-burglar Awkwafina. And Spencer’s grandfather, Eddie, gets to be Smolder, with Johnson impersonating DeVito to much hilarity.
The film can be confusing, and the storytelling is somewhat sloppy, but the acting is good and the charisma shines through. The special effects are top-notch, turning the 3D imagery into a thrilling canvas. An undulating desert and African medinas add a touch of the exotica to this virtual wonder.