Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Danny DeVito, Jack Black, Ser’Darius Blain
Director: Jake Kasdan
Back in 2017 I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. I thought for certain it was going to be another manufactured attempt at cashing in on our nostalgia and making a mockery of a film’s legacy. Instead, we got something that not only pays homage to the original movie, but also adds a few new things to make it feel fresh and enjoyable. While the sequel is often never as good as the original, Jumanji: The Next Level shows that it has much of what made the first movie successful coming back in this one. Sure there’s a lot of repetition between the two movies, but the chemistry of the cast combined with the humor and action that carries over make Jumanji: Next Level an enjoyable December release.
The film takes place after the events of the previous movie with all four kids back in their hometown for winter break. When Spencer (Alex Wolff) re-enters the game, his friends along with his grandfather Eddie (DeVito) and his estranged friend Milo Walker (Danny Glover) enter the game to rescue him not knowing the full dangers of what lies in the game this time. The things this movie does well are basically the same things it did well in the previous movie. The action is fun, the jokes are enjoyable, and you feel as though the stakes are real. Being that this is a movie aimed at relatively younger audiences, none of these scenes can get too heavy, so the movie does a good job of keeping everything balanced. When you have a charismatic cast of actors like Johnson and Kevin Hart who are general crowd-pleasers, your movie is going to have an automatic boost that most movies don’t dream of getting. While all of these elements may set the movie up for immediate success, that doesn’t mean the movie is without issues. For one thing, the movie gets very repetitive incredibly quickly. Not necessarily because of all the callbacks to the previous movie, but because of rehashing the same style of jokes throughout the 123 minute runtime. Specifically, the jokes surrounding Eddie and Milo’s age. At the beginning it’s slightly amusing to see two senior citizens enter a world they know nothing about, but as time passes the jokes just end up falling flat. If you’re still pulling out, “we’re in a video game?” jokes in the third act of the movie, it seems as though you may have run out of material. It’s a shame, because DeVito and Glover are fantastic when used in the proper context, but unfortunately this isn’t the context in this movie. This very much a safe, enjoyable sequel that follows all of Hollywood’s guidelines on how to make money, but I really wish with the premise of the movie that they took a few more risks to do something exciting in a movie all about excitement, risk, and adventure. While some of the new characters like Awkwafina add something special in her scenes, they aren’t frequent enough to warrant a ticket price.
Overall, Jumanji: The Next Level is a good movie, but it’s just under my threshold of a movie I would go pay to see. If you’re looking for an enjoyable movie to put on when you have people over, there aren’t going to be too many better than Jumanji: The Next Level for that role. I definitely see this movie getting more life on television or streaming sites down the line, and maybe I’ll enjoy it more in the future. I believe the masses will find a movie like Jumanji: The Next Level to be fun and exciting, but I just wish it did a little more to stand out as one of the best of the year in its genre.
Overall Score: 6.5/10