The Movie Guru: ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ an entertaining adventure
‘Jumanji: The Next Level’
Rated: PG-13 for adventure action, suggestive content and some language
Written by: Jake Kasdan, Jeff Pinkner, and Scott Rosenberg, based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Starring: Karen Gillan, Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Awkwafina, Danny DeVito, Nick Jonas, Kevin Hart, Colin Hanks, Alex Wolff, Rory McCann, and more
Grade: Three stars out of four
‘Jumanji: The Next Level,” sequel to the 2017 hit “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” has all the fast-paced fun of its predecessor. While the sequel not as successful in the creativity department, the acting is just as much of a delight. While it’s definitely not the first “Jumanji” film you should see, it’s an entertaining continuation of the universe.
The teens from the last film have gone off to college, reuniting back in their hometown on a break. When they find that one of their friends has gone back into the game, they jump in after him to help complete the mission. Once they get inside, however, they find out that things are very different than they remember. Can they survive the new version of the game?
The cast is still the best part of the movie, and in some ways they’re even better. This movie plays more with the game avatars each character ends up in, meaning that the actors get to do a ton more impressions. Jack Black continues to be fantastic, no matter what character he’s called on to play. A more extreme character transformation means Dwayne Johnson delivers a better performance, and Karen Gillan nails her own brief romp with the same. Kevin Hart also does a great job delivering laughs in a completely different style than his usual.
Danny DeVito and Awkwafina are both excellent additions to the cast. DeVito’s brand of exasperation is entertaining whether it’s him or someone else doing it. Awkwafina communicates her character’s anxiety better than Johnson did in the previous film, but it’s her impression of DeVito that’s the real treasure. I now desperately need a “Grumpy Old Men” remake starring her and DeVito.
Sadly, the movie itself isn’t quite as heartwarming as it should be. One of its emotional subplots is never developed enough to make you care about it. The other one gets a great start, thanks in large part to Alex Wolff, but it’s wrapped up far too abruptly. Colin Hanks and Madison Iseman bring over a surprising amount of depth from the original movie, but they’re not allowed to do anything with it.
The plot also could have been more creative. The character switches were fun, but nothing is done with it beyond giving the actors a chance to play. The idea that the game is broken could have also been really exciting, but was mostly ignored after the opening. It’s a fine, serviceable story, but it could have been so much more.
Still, you probably won’t think about any of that as you watch it. “Jumanji: The Next Level” is hardly a perfect movie, but it’s still a fun way to spend a few hours.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.