Once upon a time. buying a video game meant you dished out some money, paid for the game, played it, and that was it. If you beat it great. If you did not beat it, it went into the pile of games you became stuck on. Today’s age of internet capabilities means you buy a game, play it, and even if you beat it, pick it back up a few months later because some new DLC (down loadable content) came out featuring new maps and levels. The Jumanji series started as a simple board game, but it has now been upgraded to a DLC franchise with what is now its third installment. Here is my Jumanji: The Next Level Review.
Jumanji Review: A True DLC movie
Jumanji 2 or 3, whatever you want to call it, contains that true DLC feel. All the same characters return. The world remains the same even though there is a new level and they add some new characters.
The movie picks up with our four previous heroes older and scattered to the winds of life. Bethany resides in paradise. Fridge works out with his team, and Martha had her world. Spencer alone seemed to be struggling his way through a life in New York.
The four return to their hometown except Spencer will not answer the texts of the others. we then find out that while the game console was smashed to bits, Spencer salvaged it and used it return to Jumanji. He missed the confidence and fearlessness of his Bravestone avatar. Once the other three figure this out they dive in after him.
Enter New Avatars
As advertised in the trailers, joining the cast were Spencer’s grandpa Eddie played by Danny Devito and Eddie’s long lost friend Milo. Eddie and Milo end up being the second half of the foursome instead of Spencer and Bethany.
This gives the movie its new twist. While Martha maintains the avatar of Ruby Roundhouse, Fridge ends up in Jack Black while Eddie ends up in the Johnson and Milo in Kevin Hart. While we have the same four characters as before, we now have Johnson doing a Danny Devito impression and Hart copying Danny Glover.
Jumanji Review: Same Cast, Different Chemistry
It is amazing how you can have the same four people working together, but end up with entirely different chemistry. This actually weakens the film to a degree. It is not terrible, but the four do not mesh as well as they did in the first movie. Trying to be Devito and Glover subtly changes the dynamic of the groups. While this is to be expected, it does take away from teh feelings of the first film.
Spencer surfaces later in the movie as does Bethany. About this time is when the feel of the last movie comes back. New to the avatar group is Awkwafina. Her addition to the movie fits very well and i love what she did with her parts. I’d go into detail, but I do not want to spoil the movie. I am not sure how she got her foot in the door, but she has landed some solid parts and is a star on the rise.
Jumanji Review: They have a Story to Tell
Perhaps the best part of the new movie goes to the story itself. It does not simply jump into the new movie and throw characters around just to have something new. Each character has a story that evolves through out the movie.
The Martha/Spencer relationship as well as the Eddie/Milo relationship drive the heart of this movie. Martha and Spencer grew apart, but through the movie we learn why and what it takes for them to come back together. Eddie and Milo, however, are an enigma. They know each other. Eddie hates Milo for some reason, but it takes most of the film before their true story emerges. Once it does it really is quite moving.
Jumanji Review: More of the Same
Jumanji: The Next Level really is more of the same when compared to the last Jumanji, but do you fix something if it is not broken? Sometimes you have too. This Jumanji remains loads of fun. How can it not with its cast? Dwayne Johnson single handedly made a horrible film like Rampage tolerable. This is an enjoyable and fun film.
The problem is that it gets stale at points. The addition of the Glover/Devito personas shine in places, but it really messes with the Avatar chemistry once we enter Jumanji.
Jumanji Review: Final Thoughts
The humor shines in places, yet falls flat in others. It does not maintain the constant laugh lines of the last film. I walked away entertained yet disappointed that it wasn’t more. This is a great movie to go and have fun with, especially if you loved the last one. Just don’t expect anything more.
It will be interesting how they handle the NEXT level. Wait for the closing scene. It appears the story will return to the roots of teh Robin Williams version.