A harmless and enjoyable adventure with Jumanji: The Next Level (A movie review)

by Matthew Escosia
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“Jumanji: The Next Level” brings back Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan as character avatars in the video game “Jumanji,” where they are controlled by the people playing them. In this “High Five” review of the follow-up to 2017’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” we discuss how this blockbuster managed to find its way to become efficiently effective despite a few bumps.

The could-have-been

I feel the “Jumanji” franchise could benefit the most if it was presented as an anthology, following different sets of characters as they zapped into the world of a game, mostly because majority of the protagonists in these films, especially the last one, 2017’s “Welcome to the Jungle,” always feel something is lacking between them.

Maybe, it also has something to do with the fact that all of them are always fixated to react to the disorientation of their perceived notion of reality, leaving less room for meaty character growth and actual reflection.

More polished

If you’re expecting the sequel “Jumanji: The Next Level” be an improvement, yes, it is a more polished take although I still struggle to find compelling things for the people I should root for, as well as for those I should not.

The visuals looked more grounded and thankfully, it has more practical sets than the last one!

Convenient battles

It all feels too easy. In the film, a group of friends goes back inside the “Jumanji” video game to rescue a friend. If you’ll remember, these are the same people who somehow mastered the basics of the game from the last movie. Here, they are more comfortable with the entire play, at most, already predicting (which they got right) what happens after a certain decision and move is made.

This movie, for the lack of a better phrase, is the movie equivalent of a game you’ve already bested and are too familiar with, and yet, somehow find the small joys in its generous showcase of escapist entertainment.

Going beyond type

There’s no denying “The Next Level” is a fun movie. At a certain point in the movie, the video game avatars played by Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, and Jack Black go beyond their types. Johnson and Hart, in surprisingly funny and crazy turns, channel Danny DeVito and Danny Glover respectively as the two old men playing them in the game. It’s a short-lived joke in the movie that I wish extended its stay.

The film feels like a new and improved rehash of its predecessor “Welcome to the Jungle”. A lot of scenes feel too familiar and too dependent with the logistics of the last movie. The villain and cut scenes for exposition are downplayed as well.

A harmless watch

“Jumanji: The Next Level” has a post-credits scene that should excite everyone for this universe. The franchise has the upper hand of producing an effective crowd pleasure given its premise that demands playfulness. And while “Jumanji: The Next Level” has its flaws, it’s still a harmless watch, an enjoyable movie for the family.

For me, it’s 3 waves out of 5 for “Jumanji: The Next Level”.

From Columbia Pictures, “Jumanji: The Next Level” is now showing in cinemas.

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