In Jumanji: The Next Level, the gang is back but the game has changed. As they return to rescue one of their own, the players will have to brave parts unknown from arid deserts to snowy mountains, to escape the world’s most dangerous game.
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Awkwafina, Alex Wolff, Morgan Turner, Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman, Danny Glover, Danny DeVito, Rhys Darby, Rory McCann
Directors: Jake Kasdan
Writers: Jake Kasdan, Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, Chris Van Allsburg (based upon the book “Jumanji”)
Jumanji: The Next Level feels like a video game sequel. There’s a few upgrades and a bigger story, cast and spectacle but it makes sure not to differ too much from what the first one did. So The Next Level is sure to please fans of Welcome to the Jungle, which was and performed way better than expected, but it is unlikely to win over those who didn’t enjoy that entry.
Set 3 years or so after the events of Welcome to the Jungle, Spencer (Alex Wolff), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner), and Bethany (Madison Iseman) are all returning home for their winter break. Spencer is apprehensive to meet up with everyone as he is struggling with his life in New York. He returns home to find himself sharing a room with his grandfather Eddie (Danny DeVito) who is recovering from hip surgery. Spencer, unable to sleep, decides to work on the Jumanji game console that was destroyed in the last film but was recovered by Spencer. They rest of the group come to his house looking for him and soon discover that he is back in the game. They head back into the game but unfortunately find themselves joined by Eddie and his former friend Milo (Danny Glover).
It is clear that the in-game cast is having a blast with getting the opportunity to play several different characters. Initially both Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart find themselves playing older men while Jack Black is delightful as the avatar for Brick who is not happy to be stuck as an overweight white guy. Karen Gillan is great as well and once again gets to showcase her action chops as the kick ass Ruby Roundhouse. The addition of Awkwafina’s avatar adds another dynamic to the group while Rory McCann fills his role as the new villain of this adventure, Jurgen the Brutal.
The Next Level is not going to offer many surprises as it has a standard plot with our heroes going from set piece to set piece in order to achieve various objectives to once again save Jumanji. While the addition of two elderly people to the game is funny at first, and provides a lot of the humour with them not understanding how video games work, it does start to get a bit annoying, like elderly people not understanding how video games work. The voice that Johnson puts on for Eddie was a bit grating, so much so that I was a bit relieved when it stopped.
The film also has a couple of character moments that don’t have a lot of impact because they are the type of moments we’ve seen several times before. Eddie and Milo had a falling out years ago but Milo was trying to reconnect with Eddie before getting sucked into the game. This plotline is given several moments to reach its conclusion which is reasonably satisfying. Meanwhile Spencer gets a scene or two to explain and justify why he tried to get back into the game, something that is done with the broadest strokes possible.