"Jumanji: The Next Level”
Directed by Jake Kasdan
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Awkwafina, Danny Glover and Danny DeVito
The “Jumanji” reboot that hit theaters in 2017 was an unexpected hit, so there was never any doubt that we’d be seeing a sequel to the film that grossed nearly a billion dollars worldwide. The question is whether a second film could recapture the magic of that original adventure.
I’m pleased to report that yes, “Jumanji” The Next Level” is a lot of fun, thanks primarily to the core group of actors who are obviously having a blast making this movie. Their enthusiasm is infectious, and while the film has a few problems, it’s hard to get too upset by a movie that makes you smile this much.
The basic story is still the same, a group of kids get sucked into a magical videogame where they compete in a jungle adventure. The twist this time around is that two old men (Danny DeVito and Danny Glover) are also transported into the game and that the kids don’t get to play as the same characters from last time.
This leads to the amusing, and somewhat cringe-inducing sight of watching Dwayne Johnson trying to do a DeVito impression for much of the film. It’s also a bit odd watching Motor-mouthed Kevin Hart slowing things down to channel Glover. Still, these characters are so over-the-top that most audiences will be laughing, even as they roll their eyes.
It’s a good thing that the characters are so appealing because the action set pieces are just okay, with only a mandrill monkey bridge chase generating any genuine thrills. This is mostly a collection of standard-issue special effects sequences that are hit-and-mix at best. C’mon, it’s hard to get too worked up over a flock of angry ostriches chasing a dune buggy and the final fist fight on a zeppelin is rather unimpressive. It seems like the filmmakers could have, and should have, imagined something far more thrilling.
There are hints that the filmmakers want to shake things up for a third film, bringing the videogame action out into the real world, as was the case in the original 1995 film. I think that would be a great way to wrap up this franchise. I left “Jumanji: The Next Level” thinking about what might come next, and excited to spend a bit more time with these lovably oddball characters.
I suspect that I’m not alone in this. “Jumanji: The Next level” may only be a mediocre action adventure, but thanks to the charismatic cast going above and beyond to entertain us, I’m more than willing to dive back into the game for another round.
Reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published weekly in the Idaho Press and seen weekly on KFDM-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.