Jumanji: The Next Level Review

Jumanji: The Next Level movie posterSynopsis
When Spencer (Alex Wolff) travels back into the game of Jumanji, Martha (Morgan Turner), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) go in to rescue him.

Review

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.

Trailer

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

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Review

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle ReviewSynopsis
While serving detention, Spencer (Alex Wolff), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), Bethany (Madison Iseman) and Martha (Morgan Turner) come across a magical video game that transports them into the game itself. The four must embody their avatars and beat the game to return home.

Review
When I first heard a Jumanji sequel was in the works, I was skeptical. Over the last few years, movie studios have been reviving/rebooting/remaking 20+ year-old franchises to ride a nostalgia wave that is sweeping through Hollywood right now, to mostly with negative results. Jumanji is one of my favorite Robin Williams movies and one of my favorites from my childhood in general, so seeing that tarnished was not something I wanted to see. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle has managed to break the trend of terrible revived/rebooted/remake of a 20+ year-old franchise and actually provide a memorable and hilarious experience.

Really, the fun from this film all comes from the cast, their chemistry, and their overall enjoyment in their roles. Jack Black as a teenage girl is something I never knew I needed to see until this movie. He had the attitude, the tone of voice, the strut, everything. The scene where (s)he learns about going to the bathroom as a guy literally had me laughing in tears. Dwayne Johnson is one of my favorite actors right now so of course I thought he was brilliant, too. I’ve frequently said that he needs someone to bounce off of to truly hit his stride as a comedic actor and with both Jack Black and Kevin Hart, he is at the top of his game. Kevin Hart always makes me laugh and he riffs on his short stature wonderfully. His and Johnson’s moments are the next best thing in this film, behind anything from Jack Black of course. Karen Gillen is more of a recent favorite of mine but like the others, she did not disappoint.

I thought Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was GREAT 😀 I was worried that this movie would become another reviled sequel to a beloved film. Thankfully, the cast put their heart and soul into it and turned out one of the funniest movies of the year.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Jake Kasdan – Director
Chris McKenna – Screenplay / Story
Erik Sommers – Screenplay
Scott Rosenberg – Screenplay
Jeff Pinkner – Screenplay
Henry Jackman – Composer

Dwayne Johnson – Spencer
Kevin Hart – Fridge
Jack Black – Bethany
Karen Gillen – Martha
Rhys Darby – Nigel
Bobby Cannavale – Van Pelt
Nick Jonas – Alex
Alex Wolff – Young Spencer
Ser’Darius Blain – Young Fridge
Madison Iseman – Young Bethany
Morgan Turner – Young Martha

My Fave Five: Movies starring Robin Williams

Robin-Williams

I must have heard Monday’s news about Robin Williams just after the news broke.  I remember thinking this is another hoax about an actor’s death; Robin Williams can’t be dead.  Then slowly the news was everywhere and I knew it was true.  However, it didn’t really hit me until my drive home from work Tuesday.  One of the funniest actors of all time was gone.  It’s hard to believe someone who brought such joy to so many around the world could leave us in the manner he did.  I will never forget the laughs he gave me as the magical Genie in Aladdin, or as the savvy advertisement guru Simon Roberts in the short-lived sitcom The Crazy Ones, and everyone in between.  There have been many celebrity deaths over the last few years, but Williams has impacted me the most because he has always been there throughout my entire life as my experiences changed.  When I was younger, I enjoyed movies like Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire and Flubber.  As I grew older there were more mature movies like RV and The Final Cut.  When cursing seeped into my rhetoric, I found his stand-up to give me a hard laugh.  He can uniquely fit his humor for any audience of any age.  To commemorate Williams’s long and memorable movie career, here are my Fave Five movies starring Robin Williams.

Robin Williams in The Final Cut5) The Final Cut

I know The Final Cut isn’t one of Williams’ more popular movies, but I have always found this movie interesting.  For  one, this was the first serious movie I saw Williams act in.  I thought he did a great job showing the emotion of a man carrying a tragic memory throughout his entire life.  Also, the idea of splicing together footage of all the good memories of a person’s life to remember them positively, even the life of a less-than-noble person, I found fascinating.

4) Night at the MuseumRobin Williams in Night at the Museum

Williams was a perfect choice to play President Theodore Roosevelt in Night at the Museum because he was to Larry Daley as Roosevelt as Williams was to those around him in real life: a mentor.  He guided Larry through becoming the new security guard the same way he has guided so many over the years, whether it be in person or through his films.

Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire3) Mrs. Doubtfire

Come on, do I even need a reason to include Mrs. Doubtfire in this list?  Williams brings so much heart to the story about Daniel Hillard, a man who just wants to spend some time with his kids after his divorce.  It’s hard not to root for Hillard because Williams plays the character so well you can empathize with the character.  I watched this movie on TV so many times there was a point where I would just flip past it.  Shame on me.  Good thing that didn’t last long.

2) JumanjiRobin Williams in Jumanji

Jumanji is another one of Williams’ movies that is just so much fun.  As a man out of time, the only way I can think to describe Williams’ Alan Parrish is zany.  This was the same energy Williams brought to most of his comedy, in or out of film.  I like to watch behind the scenes and anything with Williams reminds me of his character in this movie.  Just non-stop off-the-wall animation, always making people laugh and making him so lovable.

Robin Williams in Aladdin1) Aladdin

There was no doubt in my mind Aladdin going to be anywhere but the top spot on my list of Williams’ top movies.  Remember the energy I said he brought to Jumanji? (You should, it is in the paragraph above) Well take that and multiply it by ten and you have Genie.  Williams displays how versatile he was with his voice with this single role.  Despite Aladdin being an animated movie, he also shows his range as an actor.  From comedy to drama, it’s all there.  Genie made this movie for me, and a big part of that was Williams.

Rest in peace, Robin Williams.  You will be greatly missed.