Action Adventure

Review: ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ is Fun, but It’s No Game-Changer

December 13, 2019Ferdosa Abdi

Welcome (back) to the jungle! The wonderfully dangerous and entertaining world of Jumanji returns in Jumanji: The Next Level, and the characters from the first film are in for another wild ride. But despite an overly charismatic cast with a dynamic most ensembles can only dream of, this sequel somewhat misses the mark with its overzealous attempt to recapture the magic of its predecessor.

The story picks up after the events of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, with Spencer (Alex Wolff), Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) having graduated high school and maintaining a somewhat strong bond, despite being miles away from each other. However, Spencer is having the hardest time adjusting to his new surroundings and being away from his friends, so when he comes back home for the holidays, he becomes overwhelmed and makes a rash decision.

Without giving away too much, Spencer is the cause for the events that ensue in this followup. However, much of his characterization is left by the wayside in favor of Dwayne Johnson's and Kevin Hart's impersonations of Spencer's grandfather, Eddie (Danny DeVito) and Eddie's friend, Milo (Danny Glover), who are also along for the adventure. While initially entertaining, it is as though writer/director Jake Kasdan and his co-writers Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg are overly concerned with making the movie a showcase for Johnson and Hart, rather than focusing on what makes the most sense narratively.

So much of what could have been a solid story about loneliness and escapism is side-stepped in an attempt to recapture and — at times — redo the first film. However, the cast (which also includes the returning Karen Gillan, Jack Black and Nick Jonas, as well as new cast member Awkwafina) is so indisputably talented — with all the actors having ample comedic talent that allows each of them to stand out in their own unique way — that it is often easy to overlook the movie's faults.

Ultimately, Jumanji: The Next Level doesn't set a new high score — but it does get close. Whether another sequel is warranted may be a whole different story, but there is certainly no debating that it will be entertaining, especially considering the on-screen talent involved.

Jumanji: The Next Level releases December 13th, 2019 from Sony Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for adventure action, suggestive content and some language. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 3 min.

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