Sequels are one of the trickiest puzzles to solve when it comes to movies, more specifically, successful and well-regarded movies. So often the thinking is merely “bigger is better” and to hell with the rest. The rest being genuine character development, logical story progression, basically anything warranting an actual need for further story and world expansion in the form of a sequel. One of the biggest losses suffered in a follow-up is the squandering of the overall story’s soul, that intangible part that made the first film something special.
However, every once and a while a sequel will come along and obliterate all expectations sometimes even surpassing the original in nearly every way. While I can’t say outright that Jumanji: The Next Level is better than its two predecessors it without question earns its place among them, as an equal rather than something everyone wants to forget. It refrains from becoming the ugly stye of the franchise.
I think where it really falls short is in its necessity to exist. The entirety of the adventure stems from one character going through self-esteem issues and remembers never feeling more confident and powerful than when he played the game and so he fixes the damaged console and away we go. Granted there are other story arcs occurring, particularly with two elderly gentlemen unwillingly pulled into the game alongside their younger cohorts from the first adventure stuck inside the console. It could easily be argued that the premise is ridiculous and so getting hung up on such small, insignificant details is missing the point. The point being this is meant to be something fun for the family to see together. In that regard, The Next Level is an absolute winner.
The greatest strength of these most recent Jumanji adventures is the ability to create laugh oriented journeys without ever disrespecting the mythos and more specifically the integrity of the original and beloved Robin Williams entry. It’s hilarious without belittling the intelligence of the audience while understanding why we’re all here, which is to laugh and go on a big adventure that would make Dr. Jones envious.
Much the same with Welcome to the Jungle, this time around is carried confidently by its cast who once again completely nail their roles, even as those roles frequently change throughout the levels they play to survive. Dwayne Johnson delivers his funniest performance ever with his impersonation of Danny DeVito, a grumpy, stuck-in-his-ways geezer bitter at everything and anything. Kevin Hart is fantastic as a slow talking Danny Glover always delivering pivotal information seconds too late. The show stealing performance though once again goes to Jack Black as Fridge, an in-shape football player stuck in the body of an out of shape, walking mistake of a person known as Professor Shelly Oberon.
Together along with Karen Gillan they each deliver memorable, highly comical moments that elevate this film from forgettable to just a damn fun time with consistent joke telling and never forgetting about the characters themselves. It never forgets about their real life issues that shape who they are and how they would actually play as certain video game characters. Are they in need of some confidence that only Dr. Bravestone could deliver? Or perhaps they need a refresher in knowing one’s self worth with some true badassery from the one and only Ruby Roundhouse. They each thrive with the character destined for them which makes for some very funny moments when things become a giant cluster of mix ups and mishaps.
Jumanji: The Next Level is silly but every bit as worthwhile as Welcome to the Jungle. Everyone makes their mark featured in their own moments to shine and they help one another to do the same. The adventure is big, fast and dangerous in a way only experienced through a video game. Johnson and Hart as old men is pure comedy gold and their chemistry shines here once again becoming a familiar but welcome highlight to the overall movie. It basically comes down to this- if you liked the first you will enjoy this next installment. I know the shortcomings, I’m fully aware of the reasons to dislike this movie but I’m choosing to focus on the fact that I had a lot of fun and laughed consistently from start to finish which is all I ever wanted from it. It left me with the thought that if another Jumanji were to come along I wouldn’t mind it so much. So far they haven’t worn out their welcome.
Rated PG-13 For: adventure action, suggestive content and some language
Runtime: 123 minutes
After Credits Scene: Mid-Credits only
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Danny DeVito, Danny Glover
Directed By: Jake Kasdan
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 2.5/ Acting: 3.5/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 4.5
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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