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REVIEW — “Jumanji: The Next Level”

Writer and director Jake Kasdan injects us back into the world of Jumanji, but this time there’s a glitch in the game.

The quartet of friends once again return to the game; however, some of them are playing with different avatars than the ones audiences grew to love during Jumanji: Welcome to The Jungle’s run toward nearly half a billion at the box office in 2017.

Desperate for the confidence boost and camaraderie he gained in his first adventure in Jumanji, Spencer (Alex Wolff) tinkers with the damaged game and gets sucked back in.

His friends Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), Bethany (Madison Iseman), and Martha (Morgan Turner) go in to save him, but as revealed in the film’s trailer, things go a little haywire when Spencer’s grandfather Eddie (Danny DeVito) and his estranged friend Milo (Danny Glover) get pulled into the game by accident.

Confusion follows when the two old men are placed inside the avatars of Dwayne Johnson’s smoldering Dr. Bravestone and Kevin Hart’s boy scout zoologist “Mouse,” respectively. The comedy that ensues from the switched identities/dementia and fish-out-of-water antics is funny for about five minutes… then the old shtick wears thin.

Fortunately, a new twist in the game allows the characters to switch back to their original avatars during the films third act. That’s when the film truly returns to form and picks up momentum for an action-packed finale that is well worth the price of admission.

Nick Jonas, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Dwayne Johnson, Awkwafina and Kevin Hart star in Jumanji: The Next Level

The cast’s chemistry is at the top of its game. Johnson and Hart take their well-documented bromance to the next level by giving us a peek into their future as grumpy old men.

Karen Gillan admirably delivers the exposition by repeatedly having to explain the rules of the game to the elderly players. Jack Black is a comedic legend firing on all cylinders with his ability to inhabit multiple characters throughout the film.

Nick Jonas returns as Jefferson “Seaplane” McDonough and is joined by another stellar addition to the cast: frequent scene-stealer Awkwafina as a new avatar within the game.

There are also a few surprise guests and cameos that will delight fans of the original Robin Williams film as well as some sequences that set up at least another installment that could potentially merge both the film’s real life players and their video game counterparts together in the real world. I’m crossing my fingers for a Bonnie Hunt cameo in Jumanji 3.


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