Dwayne Johnson as Eddie
Directed by Jake Kasdan
After the events of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the four teens have separately gone off to college but stayed in touch. While Fridge, Bethany, and Martha have all successfully transitioned into college life, things have not gone as well for Spencer. He finds himself struggling in school, miserable at his job and getting lost in the big city.
As Spencer returns home for Christmas, things don’t get much better. He finds himself sharing his bedroom with his grumpy old grandfather Eddie. Soon enough, Spencer begins longing for his adventurous life within the Jumanji game. And in a surprise move, it turns out Spencer kept the parts of the smashed Jumanji console. Looking for a piece of his former glory, he reassembles it and is sucked back into the game.
Looking for their missing friend, Martha, Fridge, and Bethany discover what Spencer has done. They decide to enter the game themselves to rescue him. But the game malfunctions and pulls Spencer’s grandfather Eddie and his elderly friend Milo into the game as well. But things aren’t quite what they remember within Jumanji and they must face new threats as they search for their lost friend.
If you liked the previous Jumanji film then you’ll probably enjoy Jumanji: The Next Level. It’s more of the same but with a few new twists. There are new villains, new challenges, and new animals. But the biggest new twist is the fact that the characters find ways to switch avatars mid-game. This allows for amusing mixes of characters and it allows the actors to play new roles you wouldn’t typically expect from them.
As before, the cast is excellent. Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart remain a powerful comedic duo. But there’s a twist in their routine as they play geriatric men completely out of their element. It’s amusing to see Johnson play Danny DeVito and Hart play Danny Glover. You get all of the expected “old man in a young body” jokes, but just as they begin to lose steam, they’re able to switch characters again and the story gets a new life.
Hart and Johnson are again joined by Karen Gillan as Martha and Jack Black, this time as Fridge. Gillian plays her same character as before, but she, too, is allowed to switch characters and the results are amusing. Her performance reinforces her comedic abilities. Then Jack Black gets a new twist in his performance by playing the young African American Fridge. He generates a lot of laughs as the athletic Fridge has trouble adapting to his new pudgy incarnation.
The previous cast is joined by several new members. Awkwafina plays the new avatar Ming. She gets to play multiple characters as well and it really starts to show her range as an actress. Also new are Danny DeVito as Eddie and Danny Glover as Milo. While they don’t have much screentime, they’re both there in spirit as Hart and Johnson channel them. But DeVito really shines as he plays up his elderly gripes. He really tees things up well for Dwayne Johnson.
There are a few other surprises here. One character from the very first Jumanji movie appears. An end credit scene also hints at where a fourth movie might go.
What Didn’t Work:
While Jumanji: The Next Level is supposed to be a family film, I found the amount of profanity in it a little surprising. Then again, it is rated PG-13, so this is a case where you should heed the rating.
This film also does its best to add some heart to the story. This is especially the case with DeVito and Glover’s characters. But they end up doing something really weird with this duo at the end that seemed a bit out of place for this film. I can’t get into more without getting into spoilers, but suffice it to say that some strange choices were made with Glover’s character.
Finally, Jumanji: The Next Level plays out almost every joke to the point it almost becomes dull. It’s the case with the old man jokes, the video game jokes, etc. Fortunately, they do manage to switch gears just in time and it keeps things interesting. I do believe the Jumanji video game concept is almost worn out after this film, but the end credit does promise something to shake things up again, so that is promising.
The Bottom Line:
If you liked the previous Jumanji movie, then I think there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy Jumanji: The Next Level. It’s a good option for the family over the holidays if Star Wars is sold out.
Jumanji: The Next Level opens Friday, December 13!