Friday, December 13, 2019

Review: Jumanji: The Next Level

Release date: December 13, 2019
Running time: 123 minutes
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan

They're back in the game!  A year after their original jungle trek, Spencer begins to lose some of the confidence he had gained from the first adventure.  Hoping to recapture some of that and get out of his rut, he reassembles Jumanji to take one more trip into the jungle.  After they find out, his old friends come to his rescue, but unwittingly take a few additional people with them: Spencer's grandfather and his old friend / enemy Milo.  How this newly assembled team deals with the dangers of Jumanji will determine whether they make it out alive!  

One of the most refreshing aspects of the Jumanji reboot is that it took many standard video game conventions--multiple lives, bad dialog options, magical bags of holding--and converted them hilariously onto the big screen.  Thankfully, the Next Level keeps this alive with many of the same quirks that Jumanji highligted—like poor, looping NPC dialog—and additional video game staples to that will keep the inner gamer in you laughing.   Another enjoyable aspect of the first Jumanji was the diverse cast that fit together perfectly, both the in game heroes and their real life child counterparts.  The Next Level keeps this as well with the same cast of characters returning with a few additional characters and tweaks to the old formula.  Overall, it is a welcome return to form for this series and it is wonderful to see these again on the big screen.  However, as detailed below, the new additions are funny at times but often hurt the original films magic.

The Next Level strays from the original movie's formula by setting the film in pretty much every locale but a jungle.  You'll encounter a dessert, an oasis town, and snow covered mountains, none of which have the same appeal as the original jungle setting.  Additionally, the film mixes up the characters a little—presumably to keep the audience guessing and to keep the characters fresh—but some of the changes got old quick.  It was funny the first time, but unfortunately they kept going back to that well and it became tiresome by the end of the film.  And this tiresome aspect of the film causes it to slow down tremendously at the start and consistently impedes the pace of the film.  Unfortunately, this is a case where the additions hurt the simple magic that made the first film so enjoyable. The Next Level keeps a lot of that, and it is still a fun movie, but that original light is just a little dimmer because of what was added.  As odd as it sounds, I wish they would have just stuck to the old formula but in a new quest.  

Jumanji: The Next Level returns with a new adventure featuring the same great cast, additional characters to meet along the journey, and a commitment to video game tropes that is entertaining and hilarious.  

Rent It

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