I think it’s safe to say that 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was an unexpected surprise that exceeded everyone’s initial thoughts. I was unsure of another Jumanji film given the legacy of the 1995 Robin Williams film, but when I exited the theater, I had a big smile across my face. Now Jumanji: The Next Level offers a worthy sequel that brings the laughs, thrills and all the excitement that a sequel should bring when done correctly.
In this film, Jumanji, the destructive forest-themed board game that literally rebooted itself into a video game in Welcome to the Jungle, has been destroyed and the kids who played it have moved on with their lives. College has taken up most of their time and when the gang decides to get together again…. well you’ve probably guessed it just by looking at the trailers. Suffice to say, they enter the game once again. But things are different this time. Since the game was broken, I suppose that’s the reason the kids are unable to choose their characters this time around, instead leading to a toss-up of who’s who.
Their game avatars are all back, including Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Professor Sheldon ‘Shelly” Oberon (Jack Black), Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart) and Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) but this time some new people are “playing” these characters. I won’t reveal who’s who, but this time everyone is different and the results are hilarious. There are two additions to the film in Danny DeVito and Danny Glover, who play a crucial role in the film and are unwilling participants (or should I say confused players) in this video game world.
Ok, I give you some clues. Dwayne Johnson talks with a nor’ eastern accent, Kevin Hart talks very slow and likes to reminisce about the old days, and my personal favorite is when Jack Black talks like a black person! It’s a welcome surprise and throws in a nice twist to keep things interesting. Everyone is back in the world of Jumanji and they all have a mission to complete in order to save the game world. The danger is much more intense this time around, especially considering how most of the avatars are all swapped around!
The in-game plot sees our avatars seeking a powerful stone that brings life to the world of Jumanji. which is currently being overrun by a warlord named Jurgen the Brutal (Rory McCann). The mission, naturally is stop him and save Jumanji. Personally, I preferred the plot to Welcome to the Jungle as it was more inventive and creative; The Next Level’s plot is simple and not hard to follow but, like I said before, there are some surprises along the way. Think of playing your favorite video game sequel, and that’s what this movie feels like. It may be not as fun as the original, but you’ll still find it worth revisiting over and over again.
Even though The Next Level‘s story didn’t thrill me that much, I was very impressed with the changes made to the avatars, especially during a scene where we see their new strengths and weaknesses. If you’re already wondering, cake still plays a factor in this! Director Jake Kasden returns with his screenwriters to deliver a lot of fun for the holiday season, offering plenty of laughs from all the actors but I must say that I enjoyed Jack Black the most. Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart also give some really good performances and they too brought some big laughs from me. All in all, I had a good time watching The Next Level.
Verdict: 4 out of 5 Stars
Jumanji: The Next Level is yet another fun time at the theater following the surprise hit of its predecessor Welcome to the Jungle. Sure, the plot isn’t the best but it doesn’t have to be either. I love all the changes that were made to the avatars and the constant laughs that filled the theater. In a time where sequels are commonplace and at times stale, it’s nice to have one where the filmmakers gave it their all to give the audience a wonderful time. Despite all the laughs, twists and additions there is a surprise cameo that true Jumanji fans will recognize if you look closely. I’m not one for multiple sequels, but with these video game-themed Jumanji films, I’m itching for another adventure!