Jumanji: The Next Level (2019) is a welcome expansion pack to the first movie’s video game.

Having over-achieved the unexpected in following the beloved 1995 original, suddenly all eyes were on this third Jumanji movie to see if it could repeat the success of the first sequel. And repeat it, it certainly does, perhaps with just a little too much repetition.

As the gang regroup for Christmas, we learn that not everyone has taken the life lessons of Jumanji to heart, especially Spencer (Alex Wolff) whose self-doubt has returned and caused him to shy away from his friends. Desperate to experience the confidence of Doctor Smolder Bravestone once more, he sets about repairing the Jumanji game console but when his friends come looking for him, he has vanished. Reluctantly they decide to go into the game after him, but things – and people – aren’t quite as they remember from their last adventure.

This sequel introduces us to Spencer’s wider family, specifically his grandpa Eddie (Danny DeVito) and his estranged business partner Milo (Danny Glover). While they’re part of the reason why the struggles to get going at first – it feels sluggish as it explains how the neatly happy ending of the previous movie came unravelled – it’s their addition that provides the spark that brings the film alight.

The main cast has fun channelling their new characters this time around, with Kevin Hart’s hilariously note-perfect Danny Glover impression leading the way as the team have to navigate a new series of obstacles and environments. The story’s not quite as strong this time around, with a few too many side quests getting in the way of the new narrative and while it plays with the idea of body swapping, it doesn’t go full-bore crazy with it – which is both a shame and a relief.

It’s still an eminently watchable action adventure, featuring some impressive action sequences and reliably likeable performances from its star names and returning cast, with newcomers Akwafina, Danny DeVito and Danny Glover blending in like a well-designed expansion pack.

The brief coda at the end features another tie back to the original movie as Bebe Neuwirth reprises her role as Nora Shepherd and, if the teasing cliff-hanger is anything to go by, her experience will be very handy in the inevitable next movie.

7/10 

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