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Jumanji: The Next Level – Movie Review

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Jumanji: The Next Level – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Sony Pictures

Jake Kasdan took an interesting approach in reviving the Jumanji series by bringing us into the jungle and making the movie a parody of video games. The jokes could have been stronger, but there was a seed of an idea there. Jumanji: The Next Level does take more advantage of the concept, even if the central plot still involves a lot of running from one action set-piece to the next. It also gives the actors an opportunity to play around a bit more and diverge from their usual on-screen personas. Even if the result is still a fairly run-of-the-mill adventure movie, it’s a somewhat passable way to kill two hours.

The best parts in The Next Level come from watching Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart stretch their wings, with the former acting like Danny DeVito and the latter getting the chance to imitate Danny Glover. Hart is given the funniest moments, helped immensely by his delivery. Whenever Hart appears in a movie, he doesn’t depart too heavily from the overly excitable act, so it’s good to see him go in a completely different direction. He’s believable as an elderly man trapped in this younger body. Awkwafina is one of the new additions to the series and she also has a lot of fun playing a new avatar introduced in “Jumanji 3.0.”

Karen Gillan has to mostly serve as the straight woman and the exposition for those who may not have seen Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. There is a point where she is given the same opportunity as her co-stars to fool around, but it’s disappointingly short-lived. As for Jack Black, he’s just always a welcome presence in whatever project he appears in. The current Jumanji movies really belong to these stars, since the characters themselves are underwritten and that can make the scenes in the real world a bit slow as you’re just waiting for the jungle adventure to begin.

Kasdan handles the action sequences well, although most of them just involve a lot of running, screaming and punching. Despite the simple premise, The Next Level runs two hours long and the length is felt at a few points. This is largely due to the extended action scenes. The climax is when one just wants the movie to finally wrap up and reach its logical conclusion. There is a surprising amount of poignancy in The Next Level, though, as it reflects on age and how being youthful and elderly both have something to offer. Those moments are a nice break from the frenetic action that populates most of the film.

Jumanji: The Next Level is silly and lightweight, but it does take more advantage than its predecessor and that’s appreciated. The film really belongs to Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, who have become an unlikely comedy duo over the past number of years. Even though this sequel mostly repeats many of the same beats as its predecessor, it is a little funnier and that’s largely a credit to Jake Kasdan finding new ways for his cast to have fun. Hart is a talented individual and it does seem like studios aren’t giving him enough of an opportunity to prove his skills beyond a set character. It will be interesting to see where the next potential Jumanji goes (and the end of this one does provide a hint of where future installments might lead).

Stefan Ellison

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