A 2017 reboot of an old Robin Williams caper, ‘Jumanji’ turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It kept just the core idea of the 1995 original – a boardgame tries to kill its players – and gave it a modern tweak and loads of ‘Big’-style charm. And guess what? The sequel is even better.
At the end of the first film, four teenagers had survived living inside a video game and learned that you can be more than people expect you to be. A couple of years later, three are thriving but one has decided he wants to go back to Jumanji. For gawky Spencer (Alex Wolf), real life cannot compare to a videogame where he got to inhabit The Rock. Hard to blame him, really.
The plot mechanics – beat the game, learn some lessons – are broadly the same, but there’s a new twist: old people. Spencer’s grandfather, Eddie (Danny DeVito) and his estranged friend Milo (Danny Glover) accidentally join the game. And this time it’s Eddie who gets The Rock avatar.
It can’t be overstated how much joy there is in watching The Rock pretend to be a short, cranky old man. He’s now the doofus of the group, rather than the hero, and it works perfectly. The comedy gets increasingly bonkers – a horse joins the cast as a lead character; there are body swaps within body swaps – but it’s always silly rather than stupid. It’s enormous fun and played with all the subtlety it demands (none) by an excellent cast. The final credits suggest the game may not be quite over. Bring it on.