Jumanji: The Next Level

When Jumanji was rebooted, a couple of years ago, we were treated to something of a rarity these days: A family friendly adventure film. That film was deservedly well-received so it was only a matter of time before the sequel came along.

It’s nice to be able to say that Jumanji: The Next Level is every bit as much fun as its predecessor.

The set-up is much the same, with a group of people being sucked into the magical video game in which they have to Save Jumanji to escape. Once again, a lot of the comedy derives from the players finding themselves inhabiting in-game avatars that are completely at odds with their actual looks and personalities. This time around, though, the filmmakers switch things up a bit with some in-game body-swapping and, more significantly, the addition of Danny DeVito and Danny Glover as an elderly pair who struggle with the concept of being in a game.

A couple of the jokes fall a bit flat, but the film moves along at such a pace that they are soon forgotten. And the action set-pieces are all suitably spectacular.

It is, however, the characters that really make this film so much fun to watch. Highlights include Jack Black’s Shelly Oberon, successfully channeling multiple characters, and Dwayne Johnson’s utterly over the top impersonation of Danny Devito but all of the cast are both superb and do a great job of keeping you up to speed as to who exactly is who.

Jumanji: The Next Level does a great job of reworking the tropes of the earlier film while still feeling fresh and fun. Given the number of sequels that feel far too much like lazy cash-ins, this makes this one a film to be treasured.

Bad idea of the day: The Monopoly Movie

Den of Geek reports that Kevin Hart is set to star in the long-mooted Monopoly movie. I had to check and it’s true — according to the IMDb, someone really does think that a film version of Monopoly is a good idea.

Monopoly.

I know a lot of board gamers dislike Monopoly, but I have to admit that we still bring it out reasonably often. It is true that randomly moving around the board gives makes the gameplay very reliant on luck — especially in the early stages — and games can drag on if you’re not careful.

On the other hand, if you emphasise negotiation and deal-making when building (and building on) your sets, you have a reasonably tactical game in which an unlucky roll can throw all of your strategies awry (and how you respond to seeing your plans torn up in front of you is a big part of the game).

As for the length, much of this tends to be caused by house rules. Rules like putting fines into a pool to collected by whoever lands on the Free Parking square, not auctioning properties or not allowing trades until everyone has been around the board all serve to slow down the game. And if all else fails, there is nothing wrong with stopping the game and declaring a winner and/or a draw.

Monopoly, as it’s name suggests, is a game of unfettered capitalism. If you want to enjoy it, you have to embrace the brutality. But I don’t see how this is going to translate into any sort of watchable film, and the storyline sounds awful:

A trio of kids from Baltic Avenue discover that Charles Darrow, the inventor of Monopoly, hid a coded secret in the game that we’ve all been playing with for generations, setting them off on an adventure through the streets of Atlantic City, racing through forgotten underground railroads, the Boardwalk and more as they’re pursued by a near-bankrupt casino owner also competing to find Darrow’s hidden fortune.

Cue wacky escapades.

Kevin Hart played Fridge in the Jumanji sequel, Welcome to the Jungle, I film that I quite liked. The point here is that in the Jumanji films, the game is both fictional and would be terrible to play — but it’s great to watch.

With Monopoly, as with previous game to film adaptations, we’re going to end up with something that everyone sees (because everyone will recognise the name) but no-one enjoys.

But what do I know. Someone released a Jumaji board game.