Jumanji: The Next Level (12A)***

Dir: Jake Kasdan

With: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black

Runtime: 123 mins

It’s ironic that the most successful video game movie ever was not in fact based on a video game at all, but on a near-40-year-old book. A surprise mega-hit two Christmases ago, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle brought the structure of a game to a rollicking fantasy romp wherein a group of teenagers were sucked into the land of Jumanji through an old computer console.

The twist was that they inhabited avatars that were nothing like their own physical appearances, so after spending the first film in the body of Dwayne Johnson, Spence (Alex Wolff) has been struggling to adjust to life in his own skin, a theme carried throughout the movie. He deliberately re-enters Jumanji, forcing his friends to go in after him, but the masterstroke here is having the actors inhabit different characters to the ones they played previously.

So instead of Spence once again becoming the muscular hero, it’s his crusty old grandfather (Danny DeVito) who does so. The setup really runs with his confusion over just what is happening, and Johnson has a rare old time impersonating DeVito, as does Hart, now channelling Danny Glover. There are opportunities for several fun switcheroos along the way, which is just as well because the plot doesn’t exactly rattle along.

Action sequences are a variation on a theme where the gang find themselves chased through jungle, desert and mountain by computer generated creatures – some mad monkeys on rope bridges being a highlight – on their quest to recover a sacred jewel to save Jumanji from Rory McCann’s underused bad guy.

Highly gifted comic actors doing their stuff is the draw here, with Karen Gillan more than holding her own, although it perhaps doesn’t quite deliver the same volume of laughs as first time round. The Next Level doesn’t feel like as much of a challenge, nor does it feel so organic in its reason to exist. But it’s slick entertainment for a wide audience, it looks like an expensive adventure film should, and if there ends up being another one for Christmas 2021, no-one can have too many complaints.