“Jumanji: The Next Level”, which is a sequel to “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” (2017), tries to entertain us as much as its predecessor, and it accomplishes its mission a little better than I thought. Although its setting is not changed that much, it brings several nice changes and twists into its playground, and I found myself being tickled and excited more than expected.
Since their perilous adventure in a mysterious video game named Jumanji and their following high school graduation, Spencer (Alex Wolff), Martha (Morgan Turner), Anthony (Ser’Darius Blain), and Bethany (Madison Iseman) have moved onto each own way, but, unlike his friends, Spencer, who has studied in a college located in New York City, has been not particularly happy with his current status of life, and he cannot help but miss how much he was thrilled and excited in Jumanji. As a matter of fact, he has kept the game hidden in the basement of his family house while not telling anything to his friends, and he begins to work on it shortly after returning to his hometown in New Hampshire for meeting his friends.
When Spencer does not show up for their breakfast meeting at a local diner, Spencer’s friends are naturally baffled at first, and it does not take much time for them to realize what happened. Shortly after when they come to Spencer’s family house, they hear a certain familiar drum sound, and they are soon horrified to discover that Spencer attempted to fix Jumanji before his disappearance.
For rescuing Spencer, Spencer’s friends reluctantly agree to play Jumanji again, but then it turns out that, probably because of Spencer’s attempt to repair and upgrade the game, the game setting is considerably changed in several aspects. While Spencer is still missing, only Martha and Anthony are sucked into Jumanji, and there are also two other people who somehow happen to join them: Spencer’s grandfather Eddie (Danny DeVito) and Eddie’s old friend Milo (Danny Glover). Although Martha becomes Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) as before, Anthony becomes Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon (Jack Black) this time, and Eddie and Milo become Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) and Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart), respectively.
While our quartet struggles to adjust to their respective game avatars who are modified a bit compared to the previous version of their respective game avatars, the goal of their game is soon explained to them in details as before. The world of Jumanji is in a serious peril again, and the big bad guy of this time is Jurgen the Brutal (Rory McCann), a merciless warlord who is also incidentally the man responsible for the death of Bravestone’s parents. He recently snatched a precious magical jewel which is the source of peace and prosperity, and it is our quartet’s mission to beat Jurgen and then retrieve the jewel for restoring the world of Jumanji.
Once its playground is quickly established with a set of old and new rules, the movie cheerfully rolls its story and characters from one exciting moment to another. While never overlooking what is being at stake for our main characters (They will be stuck in the game forever if they die three times, by the way), the movie diligently delivers fun and excitement via a number of different action sequences, and I must say that I was particularly amused by the one involved with a certain avian species.
In addition, the screenplay by director/co-producer Jake Kasdan, who also directed the previous film, and his co-writers Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg generates some fun from the changed status of its main characters in the game. Eddie and Milo’s frequent maladjustment to their changed physical appearance functions as an uproarious running gag throughout the film, and then we get more amusement when the main characters come across a rather convenient loophole later in the story.
In the end, everything eventually culminates to a big climatic action sequence filled with lots of bangs and crashes, but the movie thankfully does not lose any of its sense of fun at least. There is an exhilarating moment when Martha goes all the way with her game avatar’s lethal physical skills while a certain pop song is being played in the background, and the movie surely throws a rousing moment as required when that certain magic word is eventually shouted out by our main characters (Is that a spoiler?)
The four main cast members of the film are dependable as usual. While Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, and Kevin Hart have considerable fun with the changed status of their respective roles, Karen Gillen is also solid in her plucky comic performance, and I was especially entertained by how Johnson and Hart are effortlessly connected with Danny DeVito and Danny Glover, who surely show us that they are not too old for acting yet. In case of the other notable cast members in the film, all I can tell here in this review is that they are also enjoyable in their supporting roles, and I am glad that the trailer of the movie wisely did not reveal too much for avoiding spoilers.
Although it is basically a familiar reprise coupled with some variations, “Jumanji: The Next Level” is an efficient sequel packed with enough humor and thrill, and it is fairly recommendable on the whole even though it is not particularly necessary in my trivial opinion. They will surely make another sequel if “Jumanji: The Next Level” earns lots of money just like its predecessor, but I will not grumble if the resulting product is as good as what I saw at last night.