As I was sitting through the first twenty minutes of Jumanji: The Next Level, an audience member in the row in front of me turned to the guy next to him and asked, “hey, this is Jumanji, right?”
He must not have seen the first film and not realised that the teenage characters would become the video game ones so thought he wandered into the wrong movie.
In any case, I’m sure the guy was glad not have walked out because of this mistake because Jumanji: The Next Level is a good time that is about on par with the first film.
Directed again by Jack Kasdan, the sequel continues to follow the adventures of Spencer (Alex Wolff), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) after Spencer goes into the game willingly and the others mount a rescue.
Unfortunately for them, the busted state they left the game in leads to some unforeseen consequences, most prominent of which is Spencer’s grandfather, Eddie, and his estranged friend, Milo, also being sucked into the game.
Taking on the roles of their Avatars, Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Franklin Finbar (Kevin Hart), Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), and Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black), the characters set off to rescue Spencer and save Jumanji again.
One of the things I really enjoyed about the film was how it went in new directions to shape the story.
Rather than a retread of the first movie, Jumanji: The Next Level tries different things, resulting in various hilarious scenarios.
The best of these is definitely Johnson and Hart playing elderly men stuck in heroic video game characters’ bodies.
This results both in many fantastic comedic moments and also a lot of growth for the two characters of Eddie and Milo.
These two elements combine with a joke at the end of the film that left me howling with laughter.
Another improvement from the first movie is the villain, who this time is Jurgen the Brutal (Rory McCann).
In Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the villain was very forgettable to the point that I can’t even remember his name.
Granted, Jurgen is not much better here but the film knows this because, with the exception of the game cut scene that introduces him as the threat, it only places Jurgen in scenes with the characters.
The villain of the first film had entire scenes to himself that did not work, so only placing Jurgen in scenes with our main characters is for the better.
What is not for the better is some of the directions the story takes.
Like I said, I do like a lot of the new routes that are taken in this film but there are a few that just don’t work.
The biggest example of these is a storyline involving a horse that ends with revolving a character’s arc poorly.
I honestly imagined this character’s story ending another way after the movie was over and I thought it was way better.
But, despite this problem, I still find the film to be a solid sequel that people will have fun with.
Jumanji: The Next Level is an enjoyable film that makes for a fun time at the movies.