Jumanji: The Next Level Review “Even Funnier with a new twist”.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
IN THEATERS: DECEMBER 13, 2019

Jumanji: The Next Level Credits

STARRING:Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Awkwafina, Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman, Morgan Turner, Alex Wolff with Danny Glover and Danny DeVito
WRITTEN BY:Jake Kasdan & Jeff Pinkner & Scott Rosenberg
DIRECTED BY:Jake Kasdan
PRODUCED BY:Matt Tolmach Jake Kasdan Dwayne Johnson Dany Garcia Hiram Garcia
DISTRIBUTOR:Sony
IMDB:Jumanji: The Next Level on IMDB

Jumanji: The Next Level Synopsis

In Jumanji: The Next Level, the gang is back but the game has changed. As they return to Jumanji to rescue one of their own, they discover that nothing is as they expect. The players will have to brave parts unknown and unexplored, from the arid deserts to the snowy mountains, in order to escape the world’s most dangerous game.

It still has “fun and entertaining” going for it, but in a way that feels much more familiar and safe, rather than surprising.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was a big surprise hit two years ago. It took an established franchise that many had fond memories of, and evolved the concept to something a bit more modern. In the process, they created a fun and entertaining adventure that audiences turned out for in droves. However, like most video game sequels, director Jake Kasdan’s Jumanji: The Next Level, is little more than an iteration on the successful formula than another evolution. It still has “fun and entertaining” going for it, but in a way that feels much more familiar and safe, rather than surprising.

In the film, it’s been a couple years since the events of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and our four (non-avatar) heroes from the first movie have moved on to college. They have remained friends, though, Spencer (Alex Wolff) and Martha (Morgan Turner) are currently “on a break” from the relationship they started in the last film. While most of the foursome appears to have adjusted well to their new lives, Spencer has not.

Awkwafina is a welcome addition to the cast, but feels underutilized.

Of course, the subtitle is The Next Level, and it wouldn’t be much fun if we were literally just playing the same game again would it? Jumanji has changed, as is its own way audiences get to experience the sequel to the previous game, where the characters we know are given a new quest to stop a warlord (Rory McCann) from conquering the land. The environment has also changed, as the new movie moves past the jungle to give us both desert and mountain levels. Luckily there’s no water level, because nobody likes water levels.

A new game also means new characters. Awkwafina joins the cast as the rogue Ming Fleetfoot to help deal with the larger number of player characters this time around. Unfortunately, she largely feels like she’s tacked on. She’s no less funny than the rest of the team, in fact, she’s better at playing Danny DeVito than Dwayne Johnson is, but it feels like a lot more could have been done with her role.

Video game sequels rarely revolutionize their gameplay for fear of alienating the fans of the first game, and Jumanji: The Next Level feels like it has taken the video game sequel idea a little too close to heart. It feels like sequences from the last movie have simply been re-purposed for the new one, with little to set them apart. The rhino stampede from the last movie becomes an ostrich stampede this time around. Dwayne Johnson gets another over-the-top fight sequence for no reason beyond, it would seem, the feeling that the new game, er, movie, needed one. It feels like the story is beholden to its mechanics. That’s justifiable in video games, not film.

Video game sequels ultimately give you the experience you enjoyed over again, and so does Jumanji: The Next Level.

But video game sequels, more often than not, work, precisely because what the fans want is more of the same with a few new bells and whistles thrown in. They liked it last time for a reason, after all. Jumanji: The Next Level certainly does remind one why they enjoyed Welcome to the Jungle, assuming, of course, that one did. Chemistry between the core actors is still great. The jokes are still funny. The action, when it’s showing us something new, is still exciting. The movie about a video game is still better than nearly every movie based on actually video games.

Hopefully if we see another Jumanji (and a mid-credits sequence teases that we might), it will find a way to do something truly new with the concept. If you wanted more Jumanji, then The Next Level will be everything you’re looking for, but while a game sequel might take the opportunity to polish its mechanics for a more enjoyable experience, the movie just reminds you that you played this one before, It’s still fun.

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