In Brief: It’s Jumanji. It’s fun!
Jumanji: The Next Level sees Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Karen Gillian and Kevin Hart return to do their original roles. Sort of. Director Jake Kasdan and his screenwriters Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg also return and return them to the game and then twist them up a bit.
Danny DeVito, Danny Glover and Awkwafina are the new cast . DeVito is Spencer’s grandfather and Glover plays his estranged business partner and ex-best friend. They get sucked into the game when Spencer rebuilds the console. He couldn’t stand being his boring, insecure self and wanted to go back to being the totally powerful guy he was when they landed in the game in 2017.
Spencer’s game icon is done by muscle-bound Johnson.
His friends follow. Only this time the game doesn’t offer them the opportunity to choose their characters. It picks for them. So this time around Spencer, Martha, Bethany and Fridge have the same faces but the friends aren’t cast as who they were last time.
If you saw the first film this is funny for awhile. Those who didn’t will find it the same.
The jewel that must be obtained this time is one stolen by Jurgen The Brutal. It needs to see the sun to restore life in Jumanji to its former state and our heroes must do all of this before their three lives are used up and they die forever in the video game.
The characters not being what they were in the first film has the actors ending up trying to imitate each other. For example, DeVito as Spencer’s grandfather ends up in the body Spencer wants. So Johnson tries to act and sound like DeVito.
I love Johnson. He’s awful in dramatic roles but is absolutely perfect in comedy. It’s his niche. Every line is delivered tongue-in-cheek and you always get the sense that he’s a line of dialogue away from totally cracking up. That makes him a lot of fun in a comedy.
Johnson has a blast with this character and with this part but he sucks at doing imitation and while he tries to sound and act like DeVito, it just never, quite gets there.
Hart — on the other hand — does. Glover’s icon is Hart’s character and Hart does an incredible job of doing Glover’s dialogue delivery style and mannerisms. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Glover must know that Hart is a huge fan. Most of the really good laughs come from Hart’s zoologist character.
I didn’t see Jumanji the first level. The screening came during the holiday movie season and sometimes critics have to choose one movie over another. I apparently picked the other.
I did — however — read the Wiki analysis of the first film and was up to speed when I caught the sequel. A quick poll of the audience after the credits found those who fell in love with the original film a bit disappointed in this one. The Next Level for many is not up to the first level.
However, sequels rarely live up to the original. That’s life at the movies. This is Jumanji and not rocket science so I had fun. Whether or not you saw the first film, you probably will, too.
Director: Jake Kasdan
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Danny DeVito, Nick Jonas, Danny Glover, Ashley Scott, Awkwafina, Rory McCann, Rhys Darby, Colin Hanks, Madison Iseman, Marin Hinkle, Alex Wolff, Morgan Turner, Ser’Darius Blain
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and language. Those who saw the first one say this good but not as good as the original. I didn’t see the first film and I had a good time. Give this a 3 1/2 on the Friday Flicks with Gary o to 5 scale.
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Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.