I didn’t expect to enjoy Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017) as much as I did. Also, I don’t think most people expected it to do as well as it did…but no one was surprised when – following that box-office success – a sequel was announced. While sequels often flounder, Jumanji: The Next Level (2019) is a solid follow-up (if not a bit of a rehash) to the previous film.
Spencer (Alex Wolff) decides to return to Jumanji expecting to feel what it is like to be Professor Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) again. His friends, Bethany (Madison Iseman), Martha (Morgan Turner), and Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), discover his decision to return and feel obligated to go in after him. However, the game isn’t functioning properly, and when they arrive they find Bethany is missing. In the game, Martha finds she’s back in the Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) avatar, but Fridge winds up in Professor Oberon’s (Jack Black) form while Eddie (Danny Devito) and Milo (Danny Glover) get Bravestone and Mouse (Kevin Hart), respectively. Not to mention – they’re no longer in the Jungle for this adventure, as they search to escape and find Spencer.
The humor from the first film is still present, and Jack Black and Kevin Hart get to carry most of it. I really didn’t like Johnson’s voice as Eddie, because he sounds nothing like Devito. It’s more the way he chooses to say the lines that don’t feel like any of the line-reads we see Devito do earlier. I’d like to mention a different performance and how successful I felt it was, but it would constitute a spoiler – so I’ll restrain myself, for now. Still, I didn’t dislike it enough for it to take me out of the film or ruin the overall experience. Hart, on the other hand – playing at Dany Glover’s character – is hilarious, and probably my favorite part of the movie. Milo takes his time to get through a story which leads to some very funny moments in the plot.
The plot is exactly what you would expect for a sequel to a movie that is essentially a videogame. Calling “Welcome to the Jungle” the best videogame movie ever made was tossed around by many people after the first film. The Next Level feels exactly like it should, as the movie makes very small adjustments, changes the setting, mixes up some characters while introducing a few new ones, and throwing in an unnecessary-but-still-sweet B-story into the mix. Ultimately, like most video game sequels, the movie says “So, you like this…what if we do it again, but change it just a tiny bit…”, and the answer seems to be “sure.”
Jumanji: The Next Level doesn’t do anything amazing, but it also doesn’t do anything bad. It’s perfectly watchable, and a solid entry into the series. The best addition to the film is an upcoming superstar, Awkwafina – who I keep realizing how much of a draw she is becoming, for me personally. Her performance and appeaRANCE in the film – which I didn’t know going in – was easily my favorite element. Jumanji: The Next Level earns the Decent Watch rating.