Grade: C+ Jumanji: The Next Level does a decent job of immersing audiences in a video game once again.
Back in 1995, the first Jumanji movie was a pretty big hit. It featured the late great Robin Williams and rising kid actress Kirsten Dunst. The premise was innovative. A magical board game came to life and audiences were gifted with some cutting edge CGI for 1995. It was a well done movie that featured a memorable performance from Robin Williams. Twenty-two years later, the franchise was rebooted.
In 2017, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, ditched the board game in favor of a video game. It is safe to say that video games are more popular than board games. The video game concept worked well in the cinema format. It was, in my opinion, better than the 1995 classic. The reboot was a big hit with audiences back then as well because in 2019, Jumanji: The Next Level has finally arrived.
The entire main cast from the 2017 movie is back (Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, and Kevin Hart) but they are forced by the game to play different roles than before. In 2017, the characters tried to break the game so that they would never have to get sucked back in again to flirt with danger. Despite their attempts to destroy the copy of the Jumanji video game, the gang, of course gets sucked back into the game.
Jumanji: The Next Level is bigger than its predecessor because not only does it deal with the jungle, it deals with snowcapped mountains, a beautiful forest and even a desert. It covers more terrain and presents a few more puzzles to the cast to traverse. It is all fun and exciting, but unfortunately some parts of the movie are marred by sub-par acting.
Since the broken game causes the actors to play other characters with their own body, it forces them to impersonate each other. To not get too far into spoilers because this feature in the movie is somewhat important to the story, Dwayne Johnson has to imitate Danny DeVito. Let’s just say that impersonations are not his thing. The poor imitations across the board of actors took me out of the movie for a bit. I did eventually get used to it and enjoyed the rest of the movie, but it was highly annoying and probably could have been handled differently?
Jumanji’s biggest strength is the video game aspect. You really do feel like you’re inside of the video game along for the treacherous ride. The story challenges the characters with several puzzles throughout their journey. It was entertaining to watch the characters fail a few times before succeeding. The cinematography is well done and captured a few cool shots throughout the two hour and three minute runtime.
While Jumanji: The Next Level does play it safe, it is worthy of a trip to the movies. It will make you laugh and possibly cringe at some acting. Just don’t expect it to be as good as Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. I did enjoy my time and it did manage to exceed my (somewhat) low expectations.