For a video game about exploration and adventure, there’s an awful lot of young adults roleplaying and switching
Look, nobody expected ‘Jumanji: Welcome to The Jungle’ to be the near billion-dollar success that it was. Especially, when up against ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’, ‘The Greatest Showman’, and the final ‘Pitch Perfect’ movie — all films promised to be box office darlings, to say the least.
So when it happened, and the movie was a huge success, director Jake Kasdan, ironically the son of Lawrence Kasdan (Co-Writer of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’), was pressured by studios (and whispers of sweet promises of money) to highly consider making a sequel.
And here we are: ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’
Now, the original story followed the lives of four very different teens in a breakfast club-like scenario. They pop-in a game, aptly titled Jumanji, and are forced to inhabit different player avatars who are vastly different from their real-life personalities; getting to know it’s like to be somebody else.
It also helped that said avatars, just happened to be four of Hollywood’s most bankable A-listers at the time: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, and Jack Black. In the end, people are rescued from being stuck in the game, lessons of empathy are learned, and new lifelong friends from different circles are made — all for a solid young adult-themed adventure story that’s Hallmark movie quality on message, but a fantastic film when it comes to being fun.
Now, what’s entertaining about ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ is a lot of the same as the original. However, it also tries a unique take on the Freaky Friday approach. This time around, the film doesn’t just place these heroes in bodies they need to awkwardly figure out (as they did that in the first movie already) but fully embraces the idea of body swapping, which at times, feels almost like superheroes coming together — by fully embracing and accepting themselves and their best-suited avatars. All through the power of friendship, getting to know oneself, and most importantly: the other person.
Not only is it a different approach, but it also delivers a lot more on the comedy. Especially, when embracing the Danny DeVito impersonations, featured heavily throughout this film by both The Rock and newcomer actress Awkwafina, who utterly knocks her role as gang’s ‘thief’ out of the park. She also wittingly gets to play both the main character and Danny DeVito’s avatar, showcasing a surprising but hilarious bit of range, and I’ll admit, the role swaps were some of my favorite funny bits in this movie.
On top of that, the adventure takes us into different climates and diverse locations. Less jungle setting and more Game of Thrones, especially evoked when we realize the villain this time around is Sandor Clegane himself, actor Rory McCann.
Our inciting incident is that Spencer (Alex Wolff) has reentered Jumanji and needs to be rescued by his friends. Joining them this time around are Spencer’s grandpa Eddie (Danny DeVito) and his ex-friend and former business partner, Milo (Danny Glover).
Fans of the first film should also be happy to hear that both Colin Hanks and Nick Jonas will be returning as Alex. Though in a lesser but still heavily featured role.
The best part about the film is, of course, the Jumanji videogame adventure. This includes the wild chase scenes, dangerous animal threats, and Karen Gillan’s still ever-present midriff. Her sex appeal and objectification, still being justified by her general kick-ass persona. Which is doubled down in this movie.
Now, as a huge Karen Gillan fan, of whom I’ve crushed on since her Doctor Who days, I’ll admit her wardrobe is distracting but also incredibly sexy, so I’m biased in stating this opinion: That she plays such a huge role in this film, so much so, that she’s arguably the actual main character. Her journey is more self-actualized and she’s very often in this one: the group leader. She is also, rationally given more clothing during the winter levels and of all the characters, embraces the idea of the growth.
So overall, kudos to Karen Gillan.
Newcomers DeVito and Glover very much slay it in this movie as well. Providing great bits relatable to the Boomer generation, but also, just general moments of character-driven and unapologetic hilarity. And finally, Awkwafina, also does a rather excellent job in her various roles especially given that she’s not only a new character but is also technically playing multiple people — of which I found nothing shy of delightful
The worst part of the film is how somewhat forgettable and mediocre the story is. Though honestly, I can’t even tell you the plot of the first movie and mediocre scripts don’t necessarily detract from Hollywood movies that can be entertaining. Atop of this, the stakes were undeniably low, and nothing felt all too risky or dire, though I don’t think this is a movie meant to be more than popcorn fun.
It’s a fun and safe movie great to watch with the family this holiday season. With just enough character arcs and a whole lot of fun adventures seeing what these Avatars respectively do best.
You Can Watch ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ in Theatres Right Now