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Film reviews: Jumanji: The Next Level

Tyred comedy:
Jack Black and Karen Gillan

THE BIG RELEASE

Jumanji: the next level

(12) ★★✩✩✩

This is the sequel to 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle, itself a reboot of the poorly reviewed 1995 studio film with Robin Williams, which then became a TV cartoon. Yes, Hollywood is eating itself and you have to wonder what will happen if studios don’t start making original content soon. Or, on second, thoughts, maybe you don’t: this is far from finger lickin’ good.

Welcome To The Jungle was hugely enjoyable. It had a neat Breakfast Club-type scenario wherein a group of high schoolers — a nerd called Spencer (Alex Wolff); a massive jock nicknamed Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain); Bethany the popular Insta-princess (Madison Iseman); and brainy misfit Martha (Morgan Turner) — wound up in detention together and got sucked inside an old video game. That game was a high-stakes, Indiana Jones-style adventure called Jumanji, where each kid found themselves humorously body-swapped with an A-list avatar (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan respectively), the opposite of their real selves, enabling them to find the hero inside. It was fun, family-sized popcorn entertainment.

This sequel, however, is as stale as old Sugar Puffs. A draggy opener that barely bothers to make any sense dispatches the kids (now of college age) back into Jumanji, this time with Spencer’s grandad (Danny DeVito) and his old pal (Danny Glover) in tow. What exactly the latter two are supposed to add is uncertain, aside from being the butt of ageist jokes. Still, their presence does at least enable Kevin Hart to do an excellent Glover impersonation. Jack Black is another belated saving grace, once again channelling a teenage girl in a way that’s so wrong it’s right, and Awkwafina is a welcome new bonus.

But with scant character development, there’s nothing to cling to beyond the lavish CGI effects, such as a nifty mid-air fight involving some fierce mandrills. Elsewhere, Karen Gillan looks perplexed as to why she’s still here in hot pants and there’s a rubbish baddie, Jurgen the Brutal. At just over two hours, it’s way too long.

Stay in and play Monopoly instead.

The verdict

The next level is… down for this family adventure franchise

The Kingmaker

(15) ★★★★✩

Say ‘Imelda Marcos’ and you instantly think ‘shoes’: she had over 3,000 pairs, an infamous symbol of the ill-gotten billions she and her late husband, President Ferdinand, embezzled from the people of the Philippines before being ousted in a coup in 1986. However, as this fascinating documentary by Lauren Greenfield (The Queen Of Versailles) shows, there’s far more to this redoubtable former first lady than a shopping habit surpassing even Elton John’s, impulse buying everything from Picassos to live zebras.

We first catch a 86-year-old Imelda in 2015, distributing cash to slum kids out of window of her armoured 4×4 with her plump, glossily manicured hands. She’s on the vice-presidential campaign trail for her 50-something son, Bongbong, who she’s groomed over decades for the family’s political comeback.

Greenfield allows the doll-like Imelda to expound her own sociopathic ‘mother to the nation’ mythology, undercutting it with increasingly horrific consequences of her greed. And while the film never manages an Act Of Killing-type confrontation, Greenfield injects a canny contemporary Trumpian relevance to her timely, engrossing portrait of dynastic power-grabbing.

Pink Wall

(15) ★★★✩✩

Fancy spicing up your date movie with a tense, post-film argument? Then pick Pink Wall.

When Jenna (Tatiana Maslany) meets Leon (indie auteur Jay Duplass, who directed 2011’s Jeff, Who Lives At Home), she’s a fashion graduate and he’s a cool DJ. Over six key moments we watch their six-year romance go slowly and painfully wrong.

This is a promising directorial debut from Weekend actor Tom Cullen (aka Viscount Gillingham, Lady Mary’s thwarted suitor off Downton Abbey), even if his intense, intimate low-budget drama often feels like an extended acting exercise.

Chopped up into a non-linear structure in the style of Blue Valentine or 9 Songs, there isn’t much narrative beyond an observation of raw conflict — between family, genders, our own expectations of ourselves and personal ambition. As such, it’s bound to strike a chord and also can’t help make you wonder what effect making it had on Cullen himself, given Maslany is his long-term girlfriend.

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