Jumanji 2: Next Level
Jacob Richardson | 9/01/2019
This second roll of the dice for the updated Jumanji franchise still hits all the same beats; just slightly less satisfyingly and surprisingly than before.
Spencer (Alex Wolff) returns from college in New York, at a low. He feels estranged from his friends and girlfriend, and utterly powerless. While rooming back home with his granddad Eddie (Danny DeVito), he decides to return to the world of Jumanji. Suspecting he is in danger, his friends Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) follow him into the game, once again inhabiting the avatars of Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), Franklin ‘Mouse’ Finbar (Kevin Hart), Professor Sheldon ‘Shelly’ Oberon (Jack Black) and of course Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson). The one thing they didn’t plan on? That not only would this be an entirely new game, but also that Spencer’s granddad Eddie and his friend Milo (Danny Glover) would also be sucked in.
The first of the new era of Jumanji’s was a welcome surprise; genuinely funny, interesting enough to keep both kids and adults entertained, and different enough to the original to justify its existence. Most of this was down to the genuinely great body swap conceit; with all four of the big actors hamming it up and having a great time playing their high school counterparts personalities. So in that vein, writers Jake Kasdan (who also directs), Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg make a logical step and double down on this; changing it up this time around by switching the avatars around, and adding DeVito and Glover into the mix.
This is where they are undoubtedly most successful in this new iteration. In particular, it is a pleasure to watch Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart play DeVito and Glover iterations of themselves. Not only do Johnson and Hart do a tremendous job embodying these two, but also the writing team and director make a smart move in focusing plenty of screentime on those two.
A new character in Awkwafina’s Ming Fleetfloot, alternately inhabited by Spencer and Eddie, also makes a very positive impression - a worthy addition to this crew of suped up video game characters.
The problems with Jumanji 2: Next Level come down to the story, which retreads a lot of the same ground. None of the action scenes pack a particular punch, and while the villain from the preceding film wasn’t exactly great or memorable, the one here is even less so. The story feels old and tired, even as Kasdan manages to make the character body swap conceit feel fresh again.
Jumanji 2: Next Level isn’t revolutionary, or groundbreaking, but for fans of the previous film this will give you more of what you liked.