The first Jumanji movie was a surprisingly entertaining experience for me. The quirks, wits and the meta jokes made it quite an enjoyable popcorn flick that you won’t regret watching. When it comes to the sequel Jumanji: The Next Level, what you miss is the entertainment quotient. If you were giggling and laughing throughout the 2017 film, this one is lacking that continuous flow of humor. It is still a watchable flick that stays definitely below its predecessor.
Our four friends, Spenser, Bethany, Fridge, and Martha decide to get-together for brunch when they all come to town for the holidays. But after arriving at his home, a depressed Spenser who was in New York decides to go back to the Jumanji to feel the control and power he sort of enjoyed the first time. But that causes some problems putting him alone inside the game without any help. When the friends knew about this they also decided to get inside the game, but the entry wasn’t easy as the first time. The confusions and problems in finding Spencer in this new level of Jumanji is the plot of Jumanji: The Next Level.
There is this character swapping thing happening in the screenplay which, to be honest, is a fascinating idea to recreate the fun with some difference. But the problem I felt was that it wasn’t really creating anything new. The new traits like the older people like the behavior of Bravestone and Finbar are offering fun for sure, but you end up feeling it wasn’t enough. And the movie takes quite a long time to get into that fun phase. And unlike the last film, there are some emotional connections between characters happening here, that too in a very predictable cheesy way which also decreases the fun element. You can really sense the writers struggling to create genuinely funny moments; the scene where Karen Gillan and Jack Black are doing that character switching thing was one such instance.
Being Bravestone in the first part of the franchise was an easy task for Dwayne Johnson as they even used his Smoldering Intensity thing as a positive quality of the character. But this time he had to do some acting as he played the role of an older man in the body of Bravestone. And it felt a bit like an amateur mono act, especially when you have Kevin Hart nailing the character assigned to him with ease in the same frame. Hart makes sure the transformation is smooth and was hilarious as always. Jack Black kind of gets lost in the crowd at some areas of the movie and yet his portrayal of the map guy Sheldon will crack you up. Karen Gillan as Ruby was pretty convincing. Nick Jonas was fine in his brief role. Danny DeVito and Danny Glover play the roles of Spencer’s Grandfather and Grandfather’s close friend. Rapper Awkwafina is there as an interesting character.
Jake Kasdan who helmed the previous film has directed this one too and this time he and his writers are trying to make it a little more inspirational. That’s not an idea you can call as a flawed one, but the problem here was that it made this movie a bit dull. And the motivational/self-discovery track they have included in the film hardly has anything new to its credit and thus the movie felt like a version they just made to capitalize on the unprecedented success of the 2017 movie. Other than the main characters, other characters like the antagonist here, for example, has no real space here. The visuals are nice with that video game-like coloring. The cuts could have been a bit more on the aggressive side.
I wasn’t terribly disappointed watching Jumanji: The Next Level. But if given a choice to pick one for an afternoon fun watch I would always prefer to watch the first one that has a continuous flow of hilarious moments. With people like Jack Black and Kevin Hart in the cast, there is a minimum level of fun we expect and that minimum is there which makes it a passable film.
If you were giggling and laughing throughout the 2017 film, this one is lacking that continuous flow of humor.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended