Jumanji: The Next Level

This sequel to a reboot is a little too long and a little overstuffed, but man is it fun. It is a very pleasant romp that is the perfect answer for a dreary day. Delightful performances and some genuinely exciting adventure set pieces make this one worth watching.

The film picks up a couple years after 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle in which a group of high schoolers, lead by Spencer,were sucked inside the adventure video game Jumanji. Those kids are now college students who are once again pulled into the video game Jumanji. This is an identical setup, but the movies finds enough new tricks to keep it fresh and make this iteration worth watching. The best new addition is the fact that the kids aren’t the only ones in the game. This time Spencer’s grandfather and his grandfather’s friend are pulled into the game too. They take on the forms of the game characters. In this case, Danny DeVito is in the body of Dwayne Johnson, and Danny Glover finds himself in the body of Kevin Hart. These two have an absolute ball giving impressions of these two. Kevin Hart in particular nails Danny Glover’s cadence and delivery. Dwayne Johnson is just delightful with his New Jersey accent and the cantankerous and befuddled Devito.

But Johnson and Hart aren’t the only ones who get to have fun with the premise. Jack Black and Awkwafina get to play against type and cut loose. They both are given personalities that fly in the face of everything they should be playing, yet it works. The only one more or less stuck as the straight man is Karen Gillan. Which is unfortunate because she is a versatile performer who can play anything. However the movie needs a steady force and Gillan supplies that perfectly.

The movie takes its time to have fun. It explores this premise and these characters often to the detriment of the plot. The movie is plotted oddly and the pacing can feel quite off at various times. The movie seems to reach a perfect climax and conclusion long before it launches into its big cgi finale. The movie is best when Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart are arguing about who Jumanji is, and whether DeVito ever was as fit as Dwayne Johnson.

The film has some really exciting adventure sequences. The heroes are chased by an army of ostriches and the resulting sequence is well executed and a lot of fun. There is another scene where they are trying to cross a canyon using a series of bridges pursued by rabid monkeys. It’s silly, but both scenes work. They are fun, exciting, and a little silly. That’s pretty much this movie in a nut shell.

Is it a good movie? Not entirely. There are too many characters. There is too much plot in a movie that abandons its plot on multiple occasions. There are problems with the pacing, but in the end it’s so darn charming and fun to watch, that I will give it pass. It charmed me into submission. If you’re looking for a light and diverting adventure film, this will be perfect. It is my cup of tea – B+

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