SINK­ING TO A NEW LEVEL

Manchester Evening News - - FILM REVIEWS -

JU­MANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL (12A)

DUR­ING a rare heart­felt ex­change in di­rec­tor Jake Kas­dan’s ac­tion­packed se­quel to his 2017 rumble in the jun­gle, a teenage pro­tag­o­nist asks chums to for­get about the dig­i­tal realm of Ju­manji.

“Can we agree, let’s never go back there,” he urges.

Re­gret­tably, his cau­tion­ary words are roundly ig­nored by Kas­dan and co-writ­ers Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosen­berg, who con­trive a re­turn to the booby-trap laden wilder­ness where dig­i­tally ren­dered crea­tures can quickly de­plete the char­ac­ters’ three lives.

Ju­manji: The Next

Level searches for­lornly for a spot where light­ning might strike twice but the plot and pac­ing are hap­haz­ard and the agree­ably frac­tious dou­ble-act of Dwayne John­son and Kevin Hart loses its comic lus­tre on a sec­ond view­ing.

Re­peated body-swap­ping in a hare­brained sec­ond act tests the ac­tors’ ver­sa­til­ity but the re­wards for us are scant. Con­trary to the ti­tle, Kas­dan’s sec­ond chap­ter is a dis­ap­point­ing step back­wards.

It has been two years since high school stu­dents Bethany (Madi­son Ise­man), Fridge (Ser’Dar­ius Blain), Martha (Mor­gan Turner) and Spencer (Alex

Wolff ) were sucked into a Ju­manji video game car­tridge and played as larger-thanlife avatars to se­cure their re­turn to the real world.

While Bethany, Fridge and Martha have sub­se­quently em­braced col­lege life, Spencer feels dis­con­nected in New York.

He re­turns to Brant­ford to spend time with his mother (Marin Hin­kle) and grand­fa­ther Eddie (Danny De­Vito).

“It doesn’t get any bet­ter than this,” grum­bles the can­tan­ker­ous old coot. “It’s all down­hill from here.”

Haunted by Eddie’s gloomy sum­ma­tion, Spencer tinkers with the Ju­manji car­tridge and is mag­i­cally trans­ported back to the

L-R: Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Dwayne John­son and Karen Gillen Spencer (Alex Wolff) and Eddie (Danny De­Vito)

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