I actually only very recently watched the 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle, even liking the cast I had just put off watching it for some reason. Now with release calendar cleared I ended up watching it and having quite a pleasant time. It wasn’t amazing but it was fun so I was kind of expecting the same about Jumanji: The Next Level and I found it to be a slight improvement, taking advantage of a bigger budget and leaning more into the video game aspect with changing sceneries.
Just like with the first one, the cast overall makes this one also a really fun experience. Where as previously Kevin Hart (Mouse) was just playing a Kevin Hart role, now he gets to really act against type and his Danny Glover-isms (Milo) are scary good. Karen Gillan (Ruby) doesn’t really get to change her avatar but takes the most out of her action stuff once again. Jack Black as Shelly is a hoot whenever he’s supposed to be Bethany (played by Madison Iseman) but he also does fine as Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) and as Martha (Morgan Turner). Newest cast member Awkwafina (Ming) plays both Spencer (Alex Wolff) and Eddie (Danny DeVito) incredibly well and is even at some points underutilised. There’s a great sequence that happens on rope bridges where most of the main cast is involved and it’s purely some of the most fun action of the year. Also Dr. Bravestone (played by Dwayne Johnson) teaches Eddie to smoulder which DeVito hilariously does at the end, just wanted to point that out specifically.
The movie cheats fairly much in the beginning with the way it throws Spencer into the Jumanji game. It felt very cheap since it is the only reason why everyone ends up in it and it’s also never properly addressed later on. And while for most of the film you forget it since the real pleasure comes from their attempts to survive, it does leave a bad taste in mouth after. Other than that The Next Level doesn’t do a poor job anywhere, there are mostly things that felt rushed to meet deadlines so they weren’t fully realised. A horse as a video game character was unnecessary and comes off as a money saver and plot device. Especially in the end, what are the real life consequences for it (avoiding spoilers here)? Can we get a villain who’s a final boss and not a henchman? And can Jumanji recast Fridge since Ser’Darius Blain is distractingly too old and his scenes with the youngsters feel off? Buy a DLC to find out.
Smileys: Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Jack Black
Frowneys: Premise, Ser’Darius Blain
It’s just great that there are still some fun movies that are self-aware *smoulders like Dwayne Johnson*.