Jumanji: The Next Level

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was a welcomed surprised when it hit theaters in 2017, mostly thanks to its talented cast inhibiting the mindset of a group of teenage friends. Seeing Dwayne Johnson take on the role of an asmatic unpopular school kid or Jack Black act like a self-centered cheerleader is pure entertainment. Throw them all into a video game world, and it’s no wonder the film made close to $1 billion at the box office. Sony is now going for a new high score with Jumanji: The Next Level, using the same formula that worked so well the first time around but changing who plays who. Once again, the film is entertaining, although it starts to feel repetitive this second time around.


Following their high school senior year, friends Spencer, Martha, Bethany, and Fridge have gone off to separate colleges to do their own thing. Spencer and Martha are no longer a couple, either, but with everyone coming back into town for the holidays it’s an ideal time to catch up with the group. Spencer, believing he is no longer the same guy he used to be, dreams of becoming the fearless Dr. Smolder Bravestone again and decides to boot up the busted Jumanji video game once more. When the rest of the group realizes what he’s done, they decide to go in after him. But even though they know what to expect this time around, the game throws them another curveball by not letting them select their players. Furthermore, it sucks Spencer’s grandfather Eddie and his former restaurant partner Milo into the game as well. Trapped inside the game once more, the friends are going to have to survive through its levels if they’re going to reach the real world.


There isn’t much new with Jumanji: The Next Level to be honest as it mostly relies on the same gimmick of the main cast embodying the persona of the least likely person. This time around, the focus is on The Rock and Kevin Hart doing their best Danny DeVito and Danny Glover impressions. Admittingly Hart is much better at being Glover than The Rock is at DeVito, but the shtick wears off pretty quickly. We get it, they’re old.


Not surprising, it’s Jack Black who once again garners the most laughter. Instead of being the ditzy teenage girl this time around, he embraces his last name and becomes the 6’0” black guy, Fridge. It’s pretty hilarious and a testament to how talented Jack Black is in that he manages to pull it off so well. Whereas everyone else and their characters quickly get stale, he always remains funny. Black is also joined by newcomer Awkwafina, who becomes Spencer’s new avatar. She brings some refreshing new humor to the group and I couldn’t help but get flashbacks to The Farewell every time she calls The Rock ‘grandpa.’


Aside from the new characters and different personas, there isn’t much that’s new to The Next Level. The film is nothing more than a simple redesign of the first. It’s not bad; it’s just not great either. If you had fun with Welcome to the Jungle, you’ll have fun here too. Just maybe not as much. The group still has to progress through various levels, defeat the bad guy boss, this time around played by Game of Thrones’ Rory McCann, and save all of Jumanji. There’s not much to any of the other characters or story because everything else takes a backseat to their impersonations.


Jumanji: The Next Level indeed feels like just another level to the same game rather than a full sequel that builds upon what the first established. It’s entertaining but there’s nothing inventive about it. Switching around who plays who provides some temporary laughs, but once those wear off there’s not much meat left on its bones.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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