Opening December 12, 2019
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Writing credits: Jake Kasdan, Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg
Principal actors: Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Awkwafina, Danny DeVito, Nick Jonas
In Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017), four teenagers serving detention find themselves inexplicably dragged into an adventure video game from which they must find a way to escape or be trapped forever. In the years since that adventure, they have graduated from high school, and while some are thriving in young-adulthood, Spencer (Alex Wolff) is struggling. When he goes missing during winter break, his friends investigate only to discover that he has kept the remains of the game console which had wreaked havoc on their lives. They thought that it was destroyed, but for some reason Spencer has been working on fixing it and in the process seems to have been sucked back into the game. His friends are determined to save him, however with the console on the fritz, things don’t exactly go as planned, making the adventure even more perilous than the first time.
While perhaps not as fresh of a take as its predecessor, Jumanji: The Next Level continues to play to the strengths of the core cast’s comedic abilities and chemistry. Shallow and silly, this is not a film that does well under close examination, but it manages to land enough jokes that it makes for an overall enjoyable experience. While Into the Jungle thrived on its multiple references to the video game genre, The Next Level dropped the ball by simply rehashing these clichés instead expanding and finding new material to make fun of. Somehow, despite the reuse of jokes, The Next Level manages to still feel fresh enough, maybe because it is so obvious the cast is having such a great time throughout. Of particular note is Kevin Hart’s take on Danny Glover, which he accomplishes with panache. While The Next Level is unlikely to be anyone’s favorite film of the franchise, it is a fun, adventurous romp which hits all of the right buttons for a holiday adventure film, and really, that is all it needs to be. (.)