Jumanji: The Next Level
Two years ago Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle proved it is never too late to jumpstart a dormant property into a bonafide franchise. The film acted as a 22 years-later sequel to 1995's Jumanji (based on the Chris Van Allsburg book,) while also completely reimagining the concept. Instead of a board game invading the real world, our players are sucked into the world of the game, but this time it's a video game world. The film was a huge success and naturally a sequel was immediately greenlit. Which brings us to Jumanji: The Next Level. Home for the holidays, Spencer (Alex Wolff) finds himself feeling anxiety in reuniting with his former Jumanji video game teammates. For basically the sake of the movie to happen, Spencer decides to play the game again which forces his friends to come and rescue him. Except this time things don't go as planned when Spencer's crotchety old Grandpa (Danny DeVito) and his former business partner (Danny Glover) get sucked in as well. With two old men that have no experience with video games cramping the other players' style, they discover they have an extra challenge as they have dead weight to carry with them from level to level.
The hard part about making a sequel though to Welcome to the Jungle and trying to recapture its same magic, is that each of the main cast was tasked with portraying a persona completely contrary to what their physical self or game avatar represents. Dwayne Johnson had to play a geeky kid who was obsessed with video games, Jack Black played a social media obsessed girly girl, Kevin Hart played an athletic jock, and Karen Gillan played a shy wallflower. It was always going to be a stretch bringing this cast back playing these specific personas and so the filmmakers decided this go-round to shake it up...unfortunately with varying results. This time, the characters are chosen at random with the new additions of the prickly, feuding old men personalities being portrayed by Kevin Hart (doing his best Danny Glover impression) and Dwayne Johnson (somehow convincing SOMEONE he could pull off Danny DeVito.) The results are an incredibly mixed bag. Johnson is absolutely terrible with his DeVito, while Hart is surprisingly good channeling Glover. This time Jack Black switches it up by playing the macho athlete and unfortunately it's not nearly as much fun as his take on a shallow bubbly teenage girl from the first film. Karen Gillan and Joe Jonas also return and don't really get to do anything vastly different than their first go around. Awkwafina also joins the proceedings as a new video game character and seems to be having fun. Thankfully she has a much better DeVito impression when its called upon.
Ultimately the sequel feels a bit thin. It certainly has a few really great sequences, but sadly never manages to be as fun, funny or exciting as its predecessor. RATING: 6/10