Movies: Jumanji: The Next Level

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Awkwafina
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Screenplay by: Jake Kasdan, Jeff Pinkner & Scott Rosenberg from the book by Chris Van Allsburg
Sony 2019
PG-13; 123 minutes
4.5 stars (out of 5)

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As far as entertainment goes, this one is entertaining. What more could anyone want really? Except to have an excuse to look at Dwayne Johnson for a couple hours? (Or Karen Gillan if that’s more your thing.)

The story this time around begins as our friends from the previous film, now all off in college, are planning to meet back home for the holiday break. Except Spencer is reluctant. He and Martha are on a “break” and he’s feeling like a loser compared to… her Instagram feed, I guess? Wanting the confidence he felt when being Bravestone in the Jumanji game, Spencer makes the questionable decision to go back in. (Because he apparently went and took the console from the school and secreted it in his basement.)

Of course, the game is broken, so… when his friends go looking for him, it grabs Spencer’s Grandpa Eddie (Danny DeVito) and Eddie’s friend Milo (Danny Glover). The humor then becomes derived from trying to a. find Spencer in the game and b. get two old men through a video game.

I suppose the true fun in watching these movies is watch actors trying to act against type by pretending to be very different personalities. Sometimes it gets a little too close to impersonation (Johnson’s DeVito has some sketchy moments), but overall the entertainment value is consistently present.

While I still enjoyed the first one more, I think that’s surely because it was so surprisingly delightful. Once expectations are set, it’s always more difficult to meet them. I also found the premise for this one—that is, Spencer’s reason for wanting to go back into the game—flimsy at best. Although in the first few minutes of the film we do see that he’s having a hard time in general (lame job, mean boss, it rains on him and his suitcase handle breaks)… The movie fails to earn its catalyst. It’s actually the friendship between Eddie and Milo that begets touching moments, and those are totally merited.

Overall, another fun installment that leaves the door wide open for more to come.