Movie Review: Jumanji: The Next Level

Simple Review: Game over, man, game over!

Greetings my fellow film fanatics! I know it has been a minute since I last graced your friendly internet neighborhood with another indelible movie review and for that, I offer my sincerest apology. Unfortunately, I have been battling a two-headed demon of procrastination and an existential crisis over the last few weeks which has made my trusty laptop a point of angst and consternation. For you, my reliable reader, I have faced this demon and once more unto the breach of this movie review blog shall I travel. Follow me as we return to the world of Jumanji with this sequel to the 2017 surprise hit of the similar name to see if it is as much fun as it’s predecessor or if your mom was right when she said video games will rot your brain!

When it was first announced that the geniuses in Hollywood decided to reboot the Jumanji franchise ( yes it was a franchise) I was a bit underwhelmed by the prospect. I enjoyed the Robin Williams lead original but didn’t hold it up as some amazing classic that needed to be revisited, but nobody really cared what I thought and thus the reboot was packaged for a lovely Christmas delivery in 2017. Much to my surprise, I enjoyed Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle finding it fun, despite some flaws, family adventure that was full of laughs and surprisingly enduring performances. The film performed exceptionally well at the box office and the inevitable sequel was in the works before you could smell what the Rock was cooking. Jumanji: The Next Level was a surprise as well, but not the way you might think!

Sequels are a tricky piece of filmmaking art as the filmmakers are trying to capture the same magic that made the original a hit. Some filmmakers are smart and use the familiar aspects of the original to build a larger more interesting story while other filmmakers take the easy way out and repackage the same film as the original. This is where Jumanji: The Next Level squarely falls. The movie does very little to add to the world of Jumanji and instead plays it safe by giving us basically the same movie minus the fun surprises. This is what makes the movie such a disappointment as there is a large sandbox to play in in this world, yet we are just covering the same ground. Remember when I said the original Jumanji was, in fact, a franchise, well allow me to elaborate. There was a semi-sequel to the Robin Williams film called Zathura which had the same rules as the original but the film used a sci-fi environment for the young heroes of the movie to survive. This is what I mean by using the familiar to expand the story in a sequel to make something interesting and new for us, the audience. I would have loved to have seen the famous avatars from Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle having to deal with the game set in a completely different world than the first. Instead, another rehash packaged as a sequel…sigh.

What little “new’ that is added to the movie doesn’t amount to much because director Jake Kasden and the writers do not seem interested in exploring what new ideas the film presents. The most obvious addition to the sequel is two new characters:  Eddie who is one of the original teens’ grandfather and Eddies’ old business partner, Milo. They are played by Danny DeVito and Danny Glover, with each doing the best they can with what little screentime they have to develop their respective characters. The movie is in such a rush to get to the characters into the video game that we barely know each character and the history they have had together, so later events in the movie do not hold much of an impact. The real shame is that there is an interesting plot point introduced as one of the elderly men begins to embrace his video game alter-ego that is at its physical peak whereas the man is dealing with old age in the real world. Very little is done with this idea of what would you chose if you could leave your life to be young and powerful, instead we get the same old age-related jokes over and over and over again. The same could be said with one of the original teens reentering the game because life in the real world isn’t as satisfying as in the Jumanji game.  Again, an interesting idea that is given very little attention as we race to the next bloated CGI action scene.

Not everything in Jumanji: The Next Level is disappointing which does make the movie watchable. The cast slides back into their original roles with ease delivering some funny moments as well as having wonderful chemistry with each other. The real stand out for me was Karen Gillan once again playing Ruby Roundhouse. Karen carries the movie as Ruby is given more of a leadership role this time having to keep the new players in the game alive while keeping them all moving in the right direction to reach the goals of each new level. I thoroughly enjoyed Karen in this film and I hope her roles in these films, as well as in the MCU, will lead to her getting more roles in the near future. Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, and Jack Black are solid in their roles as the video game avatars, supplying laughs here and there with ease. The rest of the cast, however, isn’t developed nearly enough because, as I stated earlier, the film rushes to get to the game at the cost of these characters. Danny DeVito is criminally underused, and for that, I have to shake my head in disgust in the direction of the filmmakers!

We are quickly reaching the time when we need to switch the game off and go to bed, but before we reach that save point let me wrap up this rambling review. Jumanji: The Next Level is not a terrible movie it just falls into the pointless sequel category that never delivers anything different to its predecessor. The humor isn’t as fun nor is the action very exciting, especially with Indiana Jones doing a couple of the same things many moons ago in much better movies ( and without all the bad CGI). If you enjoyed the first and want to watch basically the same movie then you will enjoy this one, but I was hoping it would go into new areas and try a little harder than it does. Basically, I am not recommending watching this in the theater, but if you see it online or on Hulu in six months and have to kill a little time then Jumanji: The Next Level won’t make you hate yourself after watching it, but I would recommend watching Zathura instead!

I hope this simple little review brought a little joy into your life and you find your way back for my next brilliant post.

As always, thanks for your time!

The Movie Psycho

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