I was a huge fan of the first Jumanji film, the “first” meaning the one from a few years ago. That reimaging of Jumanji was so fresh and really funny, truly a lot better than I thought it would be. Because of my love for the first, I was naturally excited for this sequel. Seeing that the original cast was returning plus heavyweights like Danny DeVito and Danny Glover was a great sign and I assumed the writing would be just as fresh if not more so. Well… I was kind of right in my predictions… while this sequel isn’t as good as its predecessor, it still offers up a certain amount of entertainment.
The cast is all very talented and brings the same amount of energy here as they did before. Dwayne Johnson has a great ability to be sexy and smoldering yes, but here he gets to be this somewhat crotchety grandpa and I thought he did a nice job, I mean as good as it possibly could’ve been, we’re talking about The Rock as Danny DeVito. While Johnson does a nice job, I must commend Kevin Hart for his portrayal of Danny Glover’s character. I really loved Hart in this role, his acting ability combined with what the script provided him made for a lot of good laughs.
Jack Black is great here also, although I did miss his role from the last film. Seeing Black as Bethany in the first film was absolutely incredible; so many good laughs. Karen Gillan is good as always, she fits the badass fighter chick role well. As far as the newcomers go, I enjoyed them all, especially Awkwafina! Awkwafina has a lot of good opportunities here to show off her skills, especially when she gets to be DeVito’s character. That is the perfect setup for her, getting to play this sarcastic no bullshit older guy.. and she really takes advantage of that.
The writing has some fresh moments, mainly in the beginning when the characters are getting used to their avatars. There are several well choreographed action sequences too, with plenty of excitement. While those good moments are there and you enjoy them in the moment, they don’t come as often as the first film. As the film progresses, the enjoyment factor unfortunately starts to diminish because things aren’t as well developed as last time. Not only does the comedic material come in lesser abundance, but the actual plot is thinner too. The villain is less interesting than before and feels like much more of an afterthought than he should. The journey our cast of characters take isn’t as interesting as it was previously. You can just tell that something is missing from the formula. There are one or two short scenes that felt pointless and unnecessary. They were both meant to elicit laughs, I got that. But they did not succeed. They weren’t awful I suppose, but I just felt they could’ve been doing something funnier or more entertaining.
One new thing about the plot this time around I did enjoy was the relationship between DeVito and Glover. They are old business partners and they reconnect during the adventure and it plays out nicely. The note they end that on feels organic and heartfelt too, I was impressed by their decision to do what they did. The visuals are stunning and the action scenes are original which I greatly appreciate since a lot of the action scenes in films can be recycled material. There’s one rather long sequence in which they must figure out a pattern to cross a series of separated bridges that’s very entertaining and creative, props to the writers.
Jumanji: The Next Level is definitely entertaining and has some good moments of comedy and fresh action, but is ultimately a step down from its predecessor.