During a rare heartfelt exchange in director Jake Kasdan's action-packed sequel to his fitfully entertaining 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.

A frenetic set-piece incorporating a stampede of ostriches falls short of the vicarious thrill of similar chases in the Jurassic Park films while a topsy-turvy encounter with crazed mandrills disorients us almost as much as the cast.

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 hare-brained 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-than-life 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 crotchety 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 jungle.

Bethany encourages Fridge and Martha to rally to Spencer's aid.

"We played before and we won," she reminds her buddies.

Before the teenagers can select their familiar avatars, Eddie and estranged pal Milo (Danny Glover) are sucked into the game and adopt the guises of strapping archaeologist Dr Smolder Bravestone (Johnson) and scaredy-cat zoologist Franklin Finbar (Hart) respectively.

Fridge awkwardly inhabits cartographer Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black) while Martha revisits acrobatic warrior Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan).

Aided by a "small and crafty" avatar called Ming (Awkwafina), the discombobulated players must locate Spencer and Bethany then steal a priceless jewel to secure their freedom.

Jumanji: The Next Level plies the same brand of frenetic tomfoolery as its predecessor.

Johnson's innate charm is missing in action for almost the entire picture and the twin tornadoes of Black and Awkwafina blow themselves out on parallel quests for belly laughs.

A throwaway coda unapologetically tees up a special effects-heavy third instalment.

Let the sequel be game over, and out.

BLACK CHRISTMAS (15) Three stars

Sophia Takal directs a remake of the bloodthirsty 1974 Canadian horror film about a group of sorority sisters, who receive far more than tidings of comfort and joy from a deranged killer during the festive season.

As the Christmas holidays beckon, students of Hawthorne College prepare to leave campus for the safety of home.

They are blissfully unaware that a hooded figure roams the campus with murderous intentions.

This diabolical figure follows one girl, Helena (Madeleine Adams), home and stabs her with a broken icicle.

Classmates Kris (Aleyse Shannon), Lindsay (Lucy Currey), Marty (Lily Donoghue) and Riley (Imogen Poots) become concerned about Helena's whereabouts and find themselves trapped inside their sorority with the killer.

However, the shrouded predator soon learns that the teenagers aren't helpless victims.

They are valiant survivors, who are willing to mount a fight to the gore-slathered finish to see the dawn of a new term under Professor Gelson (Cary Elwes).

THE KINGMAKER (15) Four stars

Award-winning film-maker Lauren Greenfield explored privilege, capitalism and basic human values in her documentaries The Queen Of Versailles and Generation Wealth.

In her new film, the director is granted intimate access to Imelda Marcos as the former first lady of the Philippines uses her knowledge and connections to help her son Bongbong secure the vice-presidency.

To achieve this improbable return to power, Imelda attempts to rewrite her family's widely reported history of corruption.

She distorts the narrative to paint herself as a proud and patriotic matriarch, who will do whatever it takes to protect her homeland for generations to come.

SONS OF DENMARK (15) Three stars

Racial divisions threaten to destroy the fabric of Danish society in a tense political thriller directed by Ulaa Salim.

The year is 2025 and ethnic tensions in Denmark are at their peak following a major bomb attack on Copenhagen.

Outspoken nationalist leader Martin Nordahl (Rasmus Bjerg) is poised to sweep to victory in the forthcoming parliamentary election, which would signal a major shift in the country's cultural outlook.

In a time of intolerance, 19-year old Zakaria (Mohammed Ismail Mohammed) joins a radical organisation and forges a close bond with fellow enrollee Ali (Zaki Youssef).

They are determined to rage against bigoted people in power, who are encouraging citizens to turn on immigrants.

However, Zakaria and Ali are mere puppets, under the control of forces with disturbing ulterior motives.


1. Frozen II

2. Jumanji: The Next Level

3. Knives Out

4. Last Christmas

5. Blue Story

6. Gremlins

7. Les Miserables: The Staged Concert

8. Motherless Brooklyn

9. Charlie's Angels

10. Le Mans '66

(Chart courtesy of Cineworld)