TL;DR – A film that is as fun as ever, but shows that more does not always equal best.
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene
A couple of years ago a surprise occurred, we got an unnecessary reboot that not only was a proper follow up to the last entry but also was a strong fun film in its own right. I had a wonderful time with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which meant I was looking forward to its sequel. Well, I missed it at the cinemas but now is the time to jump back in and discover the world of Jumanji (insert drum sounds here).
So to set the scene, a while has passed since the group had their last adventure with Spencer (Alex Wolff), Martha (Morgan Turner), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), and Bethany (Madison Iseman) having left town to go to separate colleges. But Christmas time is here, and the whole group is coming back home to Brantford, New Hampshire, but all is not well. For some, their lives have not matched that one time they were in the game. So when one morning Spencer does not show up for dinner, and the drums sound, the rest of the group rushes over to his house only to find the game to be broken, and there might not be works as well as the last time.
The real strength of this film, as it was in the last film is the cast, which is just a real joy to watch. This is a film that is stacked with talent with the likes of Jack Black, Karen Gillan, and Awkwafina and it shows. Most of the cast play different roles throughout the film, so you have Dwayne Johnson playing an elderly gentleman in the body of a stacked video game character. All of these scenarios gives the cast the ability to have a lot of fun and brings a lot of joy to the film. To add to this, the scenarios are all well designed heading in different areas than the last film from deep deserts to the high mountains. Also, I am a sucker for all the video game references, like the tacky backstory and NPCs.
Where the film does not work as well, is in the story side of things that can’t quite find the angle that it wants to frame its story around. One the one hand you have the story behind Spencer not fitting into the world and wanting to take another stab at being Dr Xander “Smolder” Bravestone the one time he felt strong. Then you have a side issue with Spencer’s Grandfather Eddie (Danny DeVito) fighting with his old partner Milo (Danny Glover). Both of these plotlines have a lot of potentials, but the film does not have the room to explore both in the depth that it needed. This leads to part of the film’s narrative feeling rushed and other parts feeling bloated. Unfortunately, this means that the ending does not hit as hard as I think they hoped it would.
In the end, do we recommend Jumanji: The Next Level? Yes, yes I would. While I don’t think it works as well as its predecessor, I don’t think anything would have. Sure not everything works, but when you see a film that the cast is having fun with, that fun radiates out from the screen and that is always a joy to watch.