In an age of reboots and sequels, Sony decided to create a sequel to the beloved Robin Williams film Jumanji 20 years later with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. That film ended up being a heap of fun and another sequel was inevitable. Enter Jumanji: The Next Level. Jumanji: The Next Level brings back much of what made Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle so enjoyable mixed with just enough of something new.
The combination of Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, and Kevin Heart acting as avatars to teens and behaving as said teens was without a doubt the best part from the previous film. They are back at it again only this time they are acting as avatars for different “players,” except for Gillen who continues to behave like Martha. Rather than playing an awkward teen, Dwayne Johnson gets to do his best Danny DeVito interpretation and absolutely nails it, somehow being even funnier than last time. Kevin Hart gets to pretend to be Danny Glover to hilarious effect. Jack Black deserves all the recognitions for his acting. Previously, he was acting like a teenage white girl, now he is acting like a teenage black dude, and once again creates the biggest laughs of the film.
Awkwafina joins the crew this time around. She doesn’t come in until partway through the film and disappears what feels like shortly after she arrives. Which is a shame because she integrates with the rest of the cast well. Through some shenanigans she also gets to do her best Danny DeVito impression. Alex (Nick Jonas), the fifth avatar from Welcome to the Jungle, also joins the fun for a little bit but he also isn’t on the screen much. It is clear that the movie’s focus is on the characters of Johnson, Gillan, Black, and Hart. Which on one hand is great because they have great chemistry together but on the other hand causes the other characters to be sidelined for chunks of time.
Jumanji: The Next Level keeps with the video game motif and gives the avatars new abilities and a new villain to defeat. Just like Van Pelt from the previous film, Jurgen the Brutal (Rory McCann) is pretty flat and only acts as the villain because the movie says it needs one, much like video games themselves. There are also new environments for the team to explore. The sense of adventure returns bigger than before.
The concept of lives this time around isn’t taken as seriously. In Welcome to the Jungle, the movie makes the characters limited amount of lives important and a big part of the story later on, creating stakes towards the end of the film when the characters are down to their last lives. However, that sense of value isn’t found in this sequel. Characters lose lives quickly and unnecessarily. Excluding a couple acknowledgements of their importance, the concept lives does not play much into the story, which removes those stakes mentioned in the last film.
I thought Jumanji: The Next Level was GOOD 🙂 It brings back many of the elements that made Welcome to the Jungle so much fun but with a few twists. The new cast members are great but don’t have enough screen time to make much of an impression, at least not a lasting one. After two decently successful outings, I wonder how many good levels this franchise actually has left.
Cast & Crew
Jake Kasdan – Director / Writer
Jeff Pinkner – Writer
Scott Rosenberg – Writer
Henry Jackman – Composer
Dwayne Johnson – Dr. Smolder Bravestone
Karen Gillan – Ruby Roundhouse
Jack Black – Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon
Kevin Heart – Franklin “Mouse” Finbar
Nick Jonas – Jefferson “Seaplane” McDonough
Awkwafina – Ming Fleetfoot
Alex Wolff – Spencer Gulpin
Morgan Turner – Martha Kaply
Ser’Darius Blain – Anthony “Fridge” Johnson
Madison Iseman – Bethany Walker
Danny DeVito – Eddie Gilpin
Danny Glover – Milo Walker
Colin Hanks – Alex Vreeke
Rhys Darby – Nigel Billingsley
Rory McCann – Jurgen the Brutal