WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
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.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
When Jumanji’s revival was first released in 2017, it was surprisingly good and one that I thoroughly enjoyed, despite having a deep love for the Robbin Williams one (Zathura does not exist in my world). It’s silly, sets up clear worldbuilding parameters that it sticks with and has a cast that looks like they are having the most fun together. A sequel was inevitable, but does The Next Level retain that magic? While the audience knows what to expect now, which might not be as mindblowing as the first time around, it changes up enough of the story and the world of Jumanji itself to make a fun watch for the December holidays - and what better present is there than to see Jack Black play a teenage girl again?
Our original foursome has been off in college and seeing the world, and are back home for the Christmas holidays. Spencer, however, is not feeling as content with his life outside of high school and decides to re-enter the dangerous game, forcing his friends to go in after him.
While the original cast reprises their roles, the addition of two grumpy old men - Danny DeVito and Danny Glover - was a great choice, as well as Awkwafina as a new avatar. DeVito, as Spencer’s grandfather, inhabits Dwayne Johnsons’ character, and while the confusion of explaining to them that they’re in a video game is hilarious, Johnson was a lot better at being a neurotic teenage boy then a gruff DeVito.
Kevin Hart - who embodies Glover - was a lot better playing someone other than himself for a change as an older gentleman who likes to take the scenic route when he speaks. Karen Gillan didn’t have much of a change but still offers a good performance, while Awkwafina steals the show in most of her scenes. Jack Black was again the best part of the whole movie, nailing all his lines with that amazing comedic timing of his. Rumour is, however, that this might be his last movie before he retires (fingers crossed he doesn’t), but if it is, then it’s a fitting adieu to a great comedic actor.
While the previous Jumanji focused on having more faith in yourself to find out who you really are, this one focused on the existential horror of growing up - and old - in a world that’s not as straightforward as a video game. As we all do or have done, Spencer is disillusioned with life after school, while his grandfather laments getting old while still holding onto a 15-year-old grudge. On their journey through the madness of Jumanji, the one learns about accepting life and holding on to the good bits, while the other learns to let go and appreciate the life he has lived. The game itself is pretty much the same as the first one, but it’s less important as background scenery to character development.
One warning though - Jumanji is marketed towards a younger crowd, but parents, please heed the PG-13 warning. The video game deaths are really brutal, and a younger child will get nightmares seeing Jack Black get eaten by an anaconda - I almost did.
Overall Jumanji: The Next Level is pretty much what you expect, similar to the first but still a fun ride with the addition of Danny DeVito. While I hope they don’t bash the poor franchise to death with another one, there is one Jumanji movie we all want to see - its origins. Who doesn’t want to meet the insane person who came up with this hellish torture device?