Jumanji: The Next Level Review
What started out as one of the most unexpected series' has become something rather fun. I didn't have much enthusiasm for this idea when it was first announced. I thought Jumanji in a video game was just a stupid, new-age way to make money off of something from the past. It seemed half-assed. Yet, the first film is a shining example that an idea on paper is just that...an idea. The execution of the idea is everything. "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" is a prime example of why its important to not simply write something off, because sometimes surprises DO happen.
So, can Sony hit lightning in a bottle twice? I am on the fence as to which new Jumanji movie is better, but I can say that "Jumanji: The Next Level" is a fun sequel at the very least. Let's be honest here, this was a series that never had the awards season on its mind. This exists solely to entertain, and that's exactly what this new movie does, it entertains. This is a movie that is full of fun, and if that's what you want, that is what you're going to get. Not everything has to be a classic and not everything has to have this life-altering message in order to have merit.
"Jumanji: The Next Level" is set up like a sequel. Its a reason to get the recognizable characters back. There is a semi-new adventure but its bigger, there are some differences to the adventure but the movie makes some of the same points that the first film made and everything gets wrapped up in a nice-looking bow.
The movie begins with Spencer (Alex Wolff), Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) returning from college for Christmas break. It's been a different transition for all of them, but Spencer seems to be affected the most. Him and Martha are on a break. Spencer seems to be suffering from anxiety that he really can't put his finger on. If you felt weird that first year you headed off to college, then this sub-plot might relate to you. I definitely felt a slight disconnect from my Peoria friends that first year of college, so much so that it was a huge relief to see them all again when I came home for my first Christmas break. I am also just glad that I still have friends from college and still have that core high school clique intact too. But for some, it can feel like a weird limbo you're in. So that's why Spencer decides to go into the Jumanji game again, to feel something.
He just accidentally gets his friends sucked into the game by accident too. Also his grandpa (Danny DeVito) and a friend of his grandpa named Milo (Danny Glover) who has a past with his grandpa. Danny DeVito gets sucked into The Rock's body and Milo gets sucked into Kevin Hart's body.
Kevin Hart playing Danny Glover is the most hysterical material in the whole movie.
Awkafina also shows up as Ming Fleetfoot, a new playable character in Jumanji, and is the character Spencer gets sucked into. Awkafina does some very funny work playing a teenager and then eventually playing Danny DeVito. Yes, there is some fun character changing in this movie and leads to some big laughs. Rory McCann plays the game's villain who the team needs to stop in order to get out of the game. McCann is good, but if you saw him on "Game of Thrones" you may get why he's slightly uninteresting. The character is basically The Hound-Lite. I'm not terribly sure that McCann pushed himself, but I am also not sure the script allowed him to.
There is plenty to laugh and cheer about here. There's even a nice little Pixar-like message wrapped into the ending as well. At the end of the day, this sequel serves only to please, and again, if that's what you want, go for it. When you see a Pegasus take flight in this film, you'll understand that it serves to make your time at the theater joyous. Which for this time of year, isn't bad at all.
FINAL GRADE: B+