Review by Lauryn Angel
When Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle came out, I had very low expectations, and was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I couldn’t approach Jumanji: The Next Level with those same low expectations, however, as the bar had been set. I tried to keep a healthy skepticism, however, as sequels are often disappointing. Luckily, this was unnecessary, as this second Jumanji film was just as entertaining as the first.
They key to keeping a franchise – both movie and video game — fresh is to keep what works, but not to reproduce it exactly. The formula has to be tweaked *just enough* to keep the audience on their toes, but not so different that the audience is put off by the changes. In this case, the four teenagers from the 2017 film are all back: Spencer (Alex Worlff), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner), and Bethany (Madison Iseman). But this time, they’re accompanied into the game by Spencer’s Granpa Eddie (Danny DeVito) and Eddie’s estranged friend, Milo (Danny Glover). The twist this time around is that only Martha ends up with the same avatar she had before (Karen Gillan). Grandpa Eddie ends up in the body of Smoulder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) and Milo inhabits Mouse Finbar (Kevin Hart). Jack Black’s Shelly Oberon hosts Fridge this time around, much to Fridge’s dismay, and Spencer and Bethany. . . are missing. The team is thrown in to adventure again, with the added mission of finding Spencer and Bethany before they run out of lives.
Jumanji: The Next Level keeps to the video game spirit by upping the stakes. Some of the NPC’s — such as Rhys Darby’s Nigel – return, but there are also new characters, such as Ming Fleetfoot (Awkwafina), Switchblade (Massi Furlan), and even Bravestone’s parents. And our big bad is tougher this time around as well – Jurgen the Brutal (Rory McCann, looking a bit more like Tormund than the Hound). The environment changes as well; our characters start out in the familiar jungle, but move to desert and mountain environments this time. And, as you might expect, returning characters have new skills and weaknesses that they have to explore, often with humorous results.
The bottom line is that if you enjoyed the humor of the first movie, then you’ll more than likely enjoy Jumanji: The Next Level. There are fun call-backs to the first film and enough plot twists to keep it fun. Some of the humor is definitely PG-13, but it’s decent family fare.
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