Level Up?


(Lest to Right) Nick Jonas, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Dwayne Johnson, Awkwafina, and Kevin Hart stand in Jumanji’s icy tundra before trying to penetrate Jurgan the Brutal’s fortress. Unless they can stop him, Jumanji will be a lifeless wasteland forever. (Photo Credit: rogerebert.com)

Benji Huether, Contributor

Jumanji: The Next Level picks up 3 years after the last film, Welcome to the Jungle, with the four main characters now in college. When they all come home for the holidays, Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner), and Bethany (Madison Iseman) discover that Spencer (Alex Wolff) has reassembled the Jumanji video game and has been trapped inside it once again. Together, they decide to reenter the jungle to rescue their friend, but two new characters, played by Danny Glover and Danny DeVito, are pulled into the game as well, while Bethany is left in the real world and is forced to track down Alex Vreek (Colin Hanks), the only other living person who has survived Jumanji. In the game world, while Martha and Alex are given their same avatars from the previous movie (Karen Gillan and Nick Jonas), Fridge’s avatar is now Jack Black, Bethany’s is a horse named Cyclone, and Spencer’s is Ming Fleetfoot, a new character played by Awkwafina. Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart are this time channeling Dany DeVito and Danny Glover, respectively. Together, they must once again save Jumanji to get back to the real world, learning things about themselves and each other along the way.

The largest pitfall this movie avoids is being too similar to its predecessor, featuring new characters and settings, and even a new villain, Jurgan the Brutal, played by Rory McCann. But, are these changes actually an upgrade? Well, yes and no. While the Jurgan is just as boring as VanPelt was in Welcome to the Jungle, the other new characters actually make the film feel fresh and interesting. While it’s entertaining to watch Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson play the part of an awkward, anxious teenager, seeing him as a crotchety old man is actually even funnier, and the same is true of Kevin Hart’s slow-talking and circumlocutory impression of Danny Glover. Jack Black’s opportunity to play the tough-guy is hilarious as well, and the new cast members all make great additions to the roster. All in all, the comedy manages to exceed that of the last installment; the area where it suffers, though, is in the story.

The last film had a very definitive ending, with the characters destroying the Jumanji, game, seemingly for good. So, to make the sequel happen, this movie has to make a few leaps of logic, and has a few characters make decisions that seem out of sync with what we already know of them. When the viewers finally learn why Spencer went beck to Jumanji in the first place, the scene is a bit anticlimactic. Despite these flaws, the film is still extremely enjoyable, and still provides all the action, heart, and laughs an audience could ask for.