Friday, December 13

Jumanji: The Next Level Review

Jumanji: The Next Level
Dir: Jake Kasdan
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Colin Hanks, Danny Glover, Danny DeVito, and Nick Jonas

What started with a mystical jungle board game in the ‘90s, then reinvented to an adventure video game for a new modern audience, the mischievous “Jumanji” continues to play its wicked games with a group of young people who narrowly escape being entrapped inside it forever in “Jumanji: The Next Level”. 

The sequel to the 2017 reboot, directed again by Jake Kasdan, continues the adventure with the same cast, adding three new players to the mix with the grumpy duo of Danny DeVito and Danny Glover and a thieving in-game burglar played by Awkwafina, and much of the same thematic adventure storytelling that made the 2017 film such a hit with audiences. 

The young group of friends who barely escaped Jumanji have returned to normal life, graduating high school and moving to different colleges, though they still remain close friends after their video game adventure. Spencer (Alex Wolff) however is having trouble adjusting in New York City after leaving his larger-than-life video game personality Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson). Spencer is also struggling to maintain a relationship with his girlfriend Martha (Morgan Turner), who helped him inside Jumanji as Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). After coming home for the holidays Spencer is tempted by Jumanji to return to play the game one more time, leaving Spencer’s friends to return to the game to try and save him.

Returning for the fun and laughs is the lively cast lead by the charismatic Dwayne Johnson, the hilarious talents of Kevin Hart and Jack Black, and the spirited Karen Gillan.  This cast is a major reason this film, which often retreads much of what it does well in the first film, works so well. The chemistry of the group, who are game to do the silly stuff with the most serious face, keeps the film very lighthearted, entertaining, and fun. It has an odd Saturday morning cartoon tone. 

As the film likes to reinstate numerous times, “the game has changed”. It has, well…it wants to…but it never fully deviates in any way that would cause the film to stray too far from the formula that found success a few years ago. It has changed some of the flaws from the first film, this time strengthening the big bad guy known here as Jurgen the Brutal (Rory McCann) and allowing the lone female actioner Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) more time to lead the group. Also, a nice narrative touch found in a body of water that allows the video game characters to switch avatar personalities provides the funniest moments in the film.

Still, this doesn’t prevent “Jumanji: The Next Level” from feeling very familiar and more formulaic than the last outing. Some scenes here are directly replicated from the last movie, replace CGI hippos with CGI anacondas or squabbling young people with irritable old people and repeat scenes that worked before. Still, the focus here is fun and laughs, and even though the film doesn’t try to reinvent the story it proudly understands its own entertainment value. 

Monte’s Rating
3.00 out of 5.00

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