Dan's Review: No new power-ups for "Jumanji: The Next Level"
Dec 10, 2019 11:08PM
By Dan Metcalf
Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, and Karen Gillan in Jumanji: The Next Level - © 2019 Sony.
Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony)
Rated PG-13 for adventure action, suggestive content and some language.
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Danny DeVito, Jack Black, Ser'Darius Blain, Kevin Hart, Danny Glover, Karen Gillan, Morgan Turner, Awkwafina, Nick Jonas, Alex Wolff, Madison Iseman, Rhys Darby, Colin Hanks, Zachary Tzegaegbe.
Written by Jake Kasdan, Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, based on "Jumanji" by Chris Van Allsburg.
Directed by Jake Kasdan.
Sequels gonna sequel. If a movie makes a lot of money, it’s inevitable, even if there’s no way to create any kind of interesting new angle for the main characters. 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was a runaway hit with audiences, rebooting the main idea of being trapped inside a game from the original 1995 Jumanji, starring the late Robin Williams. There was a certain amount of charm to both Jumanji predecessors, as indicated by both films’ popularity. That kind of audience appeal cannot be overlooked, so here we are with this weekend’s release of Jumanji: The Next Level.
The main characters are back with the nerdy Spencer (Alex Wolff) attending NYU, while the bonds of friendship gained from his time trapped inside the Jumanji video game are strained. Football star “Fridge” Johnson (Ser’Darius Blain) is doing well at his own college, as is Spencer’s girlfriend Martha (Morgan Turner). Their former cheerleader pal Bethany (Madison Iseman) is traveling the world. Just before Christmas, the quartet agrees to meet for brunch in their hometown over the holiday break and catch up. But things aren’t going so well for Spencer, with his relationship with Martha on the rocks and having feelings of inadequacy in comparison with his pals who seem to be handling their post-high school experiences so much better. Spencer grandpa Eddie (Danny DeVito) is recovering from hip surgery at his mom’s house when his old business partner Milo (Danny Glover) comes to visit. When Spencer doesn’t show for brunch, his friends visit the house at the same time, only to find out that Spencer has repaired the video console, rebooted the game, and reentered the game. Despite the trauma they experienced in their adventures two years prior, Spencer’s pals enter the game again, expecting to emerge inside the same avatars: Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Professor Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black), Franklin Finbar (Kevin Hart), and Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). Surprisingly, Eddie and Milo take Bravestone and Finbar’s places, as Bethany is left behind in the real world, and Spencer takes on a new avatar, Ming (Awkwafina). This time around, Fridge inhabits Professor Oberon. The new group is forced to take on new challenges inside the game, including a killer heard of ostriches, marauding mandrills and a new villain named Jurgen the Brutal (Rory McCann). Meanwhile, Bethany recruits Alex (Colin Hanks) to join her in the game as his former avatar “Seaplane” (Nick Jonas) for a little extra help, even though she returns as a magic horse. The heroes must steal a magic crystal back from Jurgen to win the game and return to the new world.
There isn’t anything very new or innovative in this Jumanji sequel. All the gags that worked in the 2017 installment are repeated, including the awkwardness of inhabiting enhanced or weakened bodies with unaccustomed genders. The main problem is that we’ve seen Dwayne Johnson’s raised eyebrow so many times before, as we’ve seen Karen Gillan look hot while kicking butt, not to mention Kevin Hart’s “silly face” schtick and Jack Black’s “funny chubby guy” persona. These are not necessarily annoyances, but they aren’t anything new, either.
The good news is, if you were banking on getting the same experience you had in the previous movie, you will not be disappointed. The bad news is, it’s beginning to get old. Speaking of getting old, the gags surrounding Danny DeVito and Danny Glover’s elderly characters border on the silly to the oversentimental.
There’s also something to be said about lost opportunities to explore a world that is more closely aligned with a video game culture in Jumanji: The Next Level. There are so many other video game clichés that might have been exploited for even more fun. Either way, it looks like there’s room for even more sequels, so maybe there are even more chances to explore new territory in the next Jumanji, even though we know they’ll probably keep on repeating the same old gags.
"Jumanji: The Next Level" Trailer