Jumanji: The Next Level

Jumanji: The Next Level

Rating: 3.75/5

Though not nearly as witty as its predecessor, Jumanji: The Next Level is an entertaining time with impressive visuals along the way.

It has been three years since Spencer (Alex Wolff), Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) were sucked inside a video game called "Jumanji". They're original shared ordeal had made them an incredibly close band of friends, but now that they have all gone to different colleges around the globe, they've drifted apart, but are looking forward to their reunion they have planned while they're all home for holiday break.

Once Spencer arrives home, he sees that his Grandpa Eddie (Danny DeVito), has moved in while he recovers from hip surgery. Eddie's former business partner, Milo Walker (Danny Glover) has also shown up for a visit. Feeling very out of place at home, and not connected to his friends, Spencer longs to return back to Jumanji so he can once again inhabit the body of Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) and feel as powerful as he did then. So that's exactly what he does. Spencer returns to Jumanji and when his friends find out, they decide they must go in to save him, but as soon as they find themselves back in the dangerous, action filled game, they realize nothing is going to happen in they way they think.

When I first saw the trailer for Jumanji: The Next Level, I was incredibly excited to see what this adventure had in store. I think it is because of that heightened level of anticipation that I didn't enjoy this movie as much as I had hoped I would. Don't get me wrong, it's not bad, just not as great as I thought it was going to be. Next Level does a good job at revisiting the humor of Welcome to the Jungle in order to recapture some of the same laughs, but doesn't fill the entire runtime with rehashed comedy. It fairly successfully came up with new material and by adding in some new characters, revitalized the story enough to make it worth watching and not feel like you're watching an exact repeat of what you've already seen before. If you want an example of a film that doesn't adapt its sequel very well and pulls the same stunts and gags as its predecessor, just watch Home Alone 2. Thankfully, Jumanji: The Next Level was nowhere near as bad as that. There were definitely times where I found myself laughing or giggling in the theater, but not to the extent of how much I did when I first watched Welcome to the Jungle. I think that could be a big reason to why this movie didn't wow me as much as I had hoped. When I first saw the Welcome to the Jungle, I really didn't expect the movie to be as great as it turned out to be, and because of that, I put too much hope into The Next Level.

What Jumanji: The Next Level really has going for it are its cast and visuals. It is such a fantastic mishmash of expected and unexpected action and comedy stars, and they play wonderfully well off each other. This movie really highlights each actors adaptability and strengths, showing that they are basically up for anything, because The Next Level certainly sends each character on a wild ride. With that being said and without spoiling too much of the movie's plot, I would definitely say its second act was far superior to its first. The Next Level seemed to have too much build up to the primary plot, which is surprising considering it is a sequel and that most people viewing the movie should already be familiar with the general concept. It almost seemed as if that could possibly have been one of the main motivations to create Danny DeVito and Danny Glover's characters. It was a way to restate the previous film's plot and remind the audience, but attempt to do it with a comedic twist.

Something that stayed the same between Welcome to the Jungle and The Next Level is that they both look absolutely fantastic. They brilliantly embody the layout and style of a video game, but have very impressive animation as well. I have seen numerous movies like this that have let the believability of their visuals fall to the wayside, but both Jumanji films certainly are not guilty of that. In fact, Next Level actually looks even better. Of course, some time has passed between the two release dates, so animation has no doubt improved since then, but Next Level expands the world of Jumanji, giving the audience a larger variety of landscapes to behold. Where the first one stuck only to the jungle, the sequel brings deserts and mountains into the mix. Though I know the bulk of it had to be green screen work, I was completely convinced in the moment of the realism and believability of the world created for the movie.

Jumanji: The Next Level is a movie I definitely want to watch again, preferably in the theaters before it leaves. Now knowing what it's like, I feel I may actually like it even more the second time around. My expectations won't be so high and I'll just be able to take it in it for what it is; a somewhat silly action/comedy, that is a perfectly enjoyable way to spend an afternoon at the movies.