Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was a nice surprise treat for critics and audiences the year it was released. It’s a real enjoyable film with well realized characters, clever writing, and good jokes. It was not held back in any way by the movie that came before. It did its own thing and did it well. It pulled off the same trick Shazam did masterfully this year, making two distinct actors feel like the exact same person and killed that too!
It was also a movie I just kept seeing in theaters (I probably went three or four times with people who just kept wanting to go).
Jumanji: The Next Level finds our team of teens reuniting for the holiday. Only, when Spencer feels lost he decides to try and find himself and returns to Jumanji. The rest of the team goes into save him and accidentally bringing two new players, Spencer’s grandfather and his business partner. Now the new team must find Spencer and beat the game again, but new surprises await.
They have a winning formula with this new rebooted series. Character drama to set up the arcs, use the in-game characters to help work through the problems, go through an inventive and heart pounding action scene, repeat.
It works so well.
The team of writers have found a way to mix up what needs to be mixed up and keep what worked. New game means new location. Those all work. The in-game avatars get some new powers and abilities to help with the new adventure that work out in interesting ways. The best move is introducing two new players, and old men at that, as well as having the characters get body swapped with new in-game avatars.
The changes provide the perfect catalyst to get some great banter, fun character moments, and let the a-list stars get to play different people. Getting Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson playing old men is hysterical. The same is true for Jack Black, who gets to play one of the other teens this time around. Their back and forth does get old (ha! Pun), but they’re so enjoyable together it goes by easily.
The action scenes this time around are still just as exhilarating but lack some variety. There are two hordes of animals chasing them. It works great in the scenes, but it’s still animals that want to kill them. It’s annoying once you notice, but still really enjoyable.
This team also gets how to do fan service in very enjoyable ways. There so many great moments that they save till the right time to spring on the viewer. They all work and don’t feel like they’re just copying what was good last time, but building on it.
Where the film fails is in two places. One, it’s not as big a surprise that it would be as solid as it was. The first in the reboot was a surprise. This keeps it up to that level but even with the mixups it didn’t shock in many ways. That is in part due to, well…
Second, the character arcs. Last movie everyone got a really satisfying set up and pay off. This time the old men have a great arc as they rebuild their friendship on this adventure, and Spencer’s is okay. It is predictable and obvious. The biggest problem is a literal plot river that undoes the switched bodies in time for the climax. Doing that is a missed opportunity. It sets them back to normal instead of help these people show where they are weak and new ways they could grow. The villain also isn’t great again. More memorable, but not by much.
Despite those grievances it is still a real blast. It has a great sense of adventure and thrill. Getting to see Nick Jonas ride in literally made me air fist the sky cause I did not think it would go there. I am invested, and with the cliff hanger at the end, this series has an interesting place to conclude.
You should see it!