Earlier today I popped along to the cinema to watch Jumanji: The Next Level – the sequel to 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. I originally planned to watch the movie during its opening weekend, but pre-Christmas family visits, as well as the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, took priority and the Jumanji sequel got kind of sidelined.
If this is a scenario that sounds familiar to you, trust me when I say: Make time for Jumanji: The Next Level. This is a great movie – a really great movie – especially if you enjoyed the previous offering.
The biggest selling point of 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was the cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan and Nick Jonas. These guys gelled so well together on screen, that they sold a fairly simple tale based on their likeability alone. Well, the good news is all of these guys are back for the sequel, and they don’t rest on their laurels – they really flex their acting muscles on this new outing and it earns the film its ‘next level’ status.
In this film, as well as playing the characters we grew to love in the previous movie, each actor gets to play someone new, all thanks to some avatar/body swapping. This minor plot device – which is effortlessly weaved into the story – brings a whole new angle to the film and allows for some of the biggest belly laughs, many of them courtesy of Kevin Hart.
Hart is hilarious in this film – and that’s saying something, because everyone is funny, including new cast members, Danny DeVito and Awkwafina. In fact, I chuckled so much watching this movie – more so than I did in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – that the laugh count more than paid for the ticket price.
But laughs aside, Jumanji: The Next Level also brings action and adventure a-plenty. Dwayne Johnson gets to flex his Pecs; various jungle critters are given the opportunity to create havoc; and Karen Gillan repeats a crowd-pleasing scene from the previous film.
There’s also some subtle world building going along in this film too, which I really loved. These nods might fly under the radar to those not familiar with 1995’s Jumanji, but they are there and appear at the end of the movie.
One of these world building nods relates to a character who appeared in the Robin Williams-starring Jumanji. The other is a thematic call-back that appears during a mid-credit scene and offers a set-up for (hopefully) another sequel.
And I am totally up for another sequel. I’d love to see this cast (and all the new cast members) brought back for one more story, which strengthens its links to the original Jumanji (and maybe even connects to Zathura).
What’s important to note here (and I believe I’ve made it very clear) is that Jumanji: The Next Level is a blast. It’s more of the same, yet with enough differences to make it work, and most important of all, it has heart. Heaps of heart.
I expect Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker to take the lion’s share of ticket sales this holiday season, but for my money, Jumanji: The Next Level is where the fun is to be had. The film meets expectations, while at the same offers new wrinkles to the formula, leaves room for more, and doesn’t wear out its welcome.
Go see it!