Movie review: “Jumanji: The Next Level”

Sony Pictures [Fair use]

"Jumanji: The Next Level" was released on December 13, 2019.

Aiden Leise, News Editor

When I went to see “Jumanji: The Next Level” over break, I wondered to myself before it started, “This isn’t just a sequel. This is a sequel to a reboot.”

“How far have we fallen?”

I liked the first “Jumanji” reboot well enough. The characters were likable and many of the sequences and ideas presented by the movie were creative. It landed very well in the box office world, but my question was still how the follow-up could attain any sense of being entertaining.

The answer was…mediocrity. 

“The Next Level” picks up a year removed from where the story left off in the reboot. After a painfully slow first fifteen minutes describing how Spencer (Alex Wolff) regressed from all of the character growth he experienced in his first venture into the “Jumanji” video game, the characters from the previous movie find themselves back in the world of Jumanji. They are joined by Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart doing an impression of Danny DeVito and Danny Glover, respectively. 

Hart’s portrayal of a Danny Glover character actually ends up providing the majority of the movie’s entertainment, although the acting of the rest of the actors within Jumanji (Karen Gillam, Jack Black, Awkwafina, Nick Jonas) is also a showcase. 

Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is unremarkable. Where the last movie did a good job playing off of common video game tropes, the story within this setting is largely forgettable. The action sequences are uninspired, and the jokes are mostly a rehash of the previous movie with the remaining “humor” coming from older people not understanding video games. 

The primary antagonist (Rory McCann) was so insignificant that I was hard-pressed to remember his name immediately after leaving the theater. The main conflicts of the movie are actually Spencer’s struggle with his own lack of confidence and between DeVito and Glover’s characters. However, with so many people sharing the screen, neither conflict is afforded enough time to break any new ground, emotionally, especially considering the Spencer subplot is almost a complete retread of what he already went through in the first reboot.

Overall, the movie is still enjoyable, if just for the return of so many likable actors definitely acting against type. One small thing that really ground my gears was a teaser at the very end hinting at another sequel, but your mileage may vary on that. If you enjoyed “Welcome to the Jungle,” you’ll likely have a good experience with this movie.