Jumanji: The Next Level
Jumanji: The Next Level offers up some next level action and adventure, in a familiar wrapper that again takes advantage of the chemistry between its leads, but feels repetitive and safe, despite its attempt at mixing things up.
Jumanji: The Next Level is director Jake Kasdan‘s sequel to the surprise hit Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which managed to turn the Robin Williams classic into a full-fledged franchise, thanks to the excellent chemistry between Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Jack Black. Jumanji: The Next Level offers up more fast-paced, family-friendly action and adventure, wrapped in a familiar shell as it mostly follows the formula of Welcome to the Jungle, only this time with the swapping of key characters.
The Next Level follows Spencer (Alex Wolff) as he goes back into the game after ditching his friends for brunch. Spencer was supposed to meet up with Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) to catchup, but ends up back into Jumanji after failing to build up the courage to see them.
Spencer is in his first year of college and feels that while all of his friends are growing up and making new friends; he’s stuck all alone and without that same confidence and courage that he once had playing Dr. Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) in the Jumanji game.
This causes his friends to stop by his house to see where he went, which ends up sucking them into the game, alongside Spencer’s grandpa (Danny DeVito) and his friend Milo (Danny Glover).
This time around the characters are switched up, with Spencer’s grandpa stuck in the body of Bravestone, Milo stuck in the body of Mouse Finbar (Kevin Hart), Fridge stuck in the body of Jack Black and Martha back in the body of Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan).
Both Spencer and Bethany are missing, which leads them on yet another adventure to find their friends, save Jumanji and get out of the game before they run out of lives and are stuck inside forever.
Jumanji: The Next Level wisely attempts to switch things up, while still mostly following the same formula as Welcome to the Jungle. Why fix what’s broken, yet still give viewers something different.
This mostly works from a humor standpoint, because now we have familiar characters in new bodies and new characters in familiar bodies. It yet again takes advantage of the on-screen chemistry between the leads and focuses on the body-swapping humor to the maximum effort.
Watching Johnson attempt to be DeVito and Hart attempt to be Glover is amusing. It does play itself out, but it mostly knows when to drop a joke or when to keep the story moving forward.
Jack Black‘s attempted Fridge performance is great and just another example of the actor’s range and ability to play up silly to the highest level.
The biggest problem The Next Level faces is its lack of a fresh feeling. Welcome to the Jungle felt exciting and different, taking an old property and bringing it up-to-date with a video game adaptation. Director Jake Kasdan and his writers managed to modernize a property that was once a hit, bringing in new faces and expanding on the action and adventure that felt smart and exciting.
The Next Level shakes things up from a character and actor perspective, but feels incredibly rehashed when it comes to the actual story.
This time around, the characters are forced to find yet another sacred stone and retrieve it from yet another faceless baddie before it’s too late.
It might present some new visuals and a different landscape, but it’s mostly just more expensive CGI-fueled set pieces smashed up against an exotic location.
Jumanji: The Next Level still offers up some fun and excitement for all ages. It works so well because of the actors and their clear enjoyment working together and returning to these characters.
The Next Level doesn’t feel as fresh or as groundbreaking as Welcome to the Jungle, but those looking for more of the same shouldn’t have a problem putting on a smile during this return visit.
I just hope that if The Next Level is a success and the team decides to return, that they spend a little bit more time on the script and the story and less time on repeating the successes of the previous installments.