Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong acting, laughs, action
Cons: A sequel; some jokes milked too long
The Bottom Line:
A sequel movie
New challenges and some swaps
Overall it’s fun
“He Didn’t Go Out. He Went Back In.”
I was among the many who were pleasantly surprised by the reboot for Jumanji we got a couple of years ago. I’ve had mixed feelings about Jumanji: The Next Level, however, based on the previews. I went in hoping to be completely surprised. It turned out to be a sequel, but an entertaining one.
It’s been a couple of years since we last saw Spencer (Alex Wolff), Bethany (Madison Iseman), Martha (Morgan Turner), and Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain). In that time, they have remained close friends. They are now coming home for their first Christmas since high school graduation. The problem is Spencer, who is feeling a bit insecure again. In fact, he puts off agreeing to meet his friends for breakfast at Nora’s until the night before. Then, he decides that what he really needs is a touch of Dr. Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), so he goes back into Jumanji.
When he doesn’t appear for breakfast the next day, his friends get concerned, so they go over to his house, only to discover that he’s gone back into the game. They reluctantly decide they have to go back to rescue him, but there are some surprises on the way. They are in a brand new adventure, not the one they did before. While Bravestone, Ruby (Karen Gillan), Professor Oberon (Jack Black), and Mouse (Kevin Hart) are once again the characters active in the game, everything is mixed up. Oh, and they accidentally sucked Spencer’s Grandpa Eddie (Danny DeVito) and Eddie’s friend Milo (Danny Glover) into the game. Will they survive this new challenge?
I have to give the writers credit. They tried. They really did. When a movie brings back all the characters from the first movie (yes, even the ones I didn’t mention are back), it’s hard to come up with something funny and fun that will keep audiences entertained and guessing. Especially when you’ve got a premise like this one, with real people becoming video game characters. They did a good job of taking what they were given and crafting the best possible movie they could.
But let’s face it, this is a sequel. And it feels like a sequel. We pretty much know where the movie is going to go, and it goes there. No, the last one wasn’t that surprising, but it was original, and this one is missing that originality.
Don’t misunderstand, I did enjoy myself while watching it. While there wasn’t as much comedy, there were still some very funny moments and lines that made the entire audience I saw it with laugh. The action scenes had me on the edge of my seat. This movie is definitely worth seeing if you’ve enjoyed any of the previous movies in the franchise, especially the last one. I do think they milked the old men not getting they are in a video game jokes a bit too long. I’m sure they could have found some better material if they had tried after the initial round of these jokes had played out.
And the actors are again phenomenal. While I thought the actors playing the video game characters were great last time, they were basically playing teenagers. This time, several of them have to take on Danny DeVito and Danny Glover, not generic old men. And they nailed it! Honestly, some of the laughs just came from someone else perfectly imitating these actors.
Another thing I appreciated is that the writers kept the character development for the teens from the first movie. Yes, they still have some growing to do, but they haven’t reverted back to who they were when the first movie started. That can be a very annoying pitfall of sequels that the writers avoided here.
Fans of the original will find a very surprising cameo at the end of this movie. And there’s one final scene after the credits start that might be setting up the next sequel. If so, I am dreaming the cameo means something specific about this potential next film.
Jumanji: The Next Level is fun. It’s not as spectacular as the previous movie, but it will keep fans entertained while they watch.