“I think he went back in. We gotta go get him.”
“Are you out of your mind?”
Here we go again with another blockbuster sequel as Jumanji: The Next Level comes to our local theaters. Frankly, I didn’t see the need for the first installment, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, but found myself incredibly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. This time, Next Level follows the same rambunctious group of friends as they have grown apart since the last film. Ridden with disappointment, Spencer (Alex Wolff) jumps back into the game in hopes of reviving his confidence through Dr. Bravestone. What ensues is another chaotic adventure putting our characters in crazy situations where they try to make it out of the game in one piece. With the additions of Danny DeVito, Danny Glover, and Awkwafina, Next Level brings us a decent sequel to the franchise.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is definitely in his comfort zone with Next Level. Johnson, along with Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, and Jack Black, jump back into their relative characters without skipping a beat. The incredible action is all there as we travel along with the heroes as they face angry mobs, confusing bridges, and basically anything that could possibly go wrong. But what fully prevents us from enjoying this movie 110%, is the addition of DeVito and Glover. Although these two have more than proved their talents throughout their previous works, I find their presence here a bit unnecessary. As the two older men who become absorbed into this game, it’s a constant plethora of old man and “we’re stuck in a game,” jokes. Having Johnson and Hart turn into these characters is a disservice to the film’s potential. Johnson and Hart, throughout the film, have these crazy voices and make remarks about their “buttery joints.” It gets old real fast. Next Level soon picks up again towards the second half, and this is where the action goes full throttle.
I know we talk about how “kick-ass” Johnson is with his strong muscles and his ability to throw a man half-way across the room. But if I were transported into Jumanji, I would hope to be none other than Ruby Roundhouse. Gillan is amazing as she fully embraces this high-intensity character. I’ve heard so many talk about Next Level’s increased need to objectify the female characters. However, I don’t hear enough about how great she is. Gillan, in my humble opinion, is the backbone of the movie, as she is thrown into situation after situation where she must be both the brains and muscle. She overshadows the “name droppers” with every scene she’s in. Maybe we should be more displeased at the fact that Gillan is constantly put in the back even though she obviously shines the brightest.
Next Level is decent, but definitely has too many issues to give it the gold stamp of approval. While the action is good, the humor and story are discombobulated. Next Level is a valiant effort, as far as sequels go, but not much of a success.
Jumanji: The Next Level
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Awkwafina, Danny Glover, and Danny DeVito