Movie review: 'Jumanji' sequel levels up with switch-ups, new characters

Fred Hawson

Posted at Dec 12 2019 12:24 PM

Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart are back in 'Jumanji: The Next Level.' Handout

In this sequel of the 2017 reboot film "Jumanji," the four young people from the last video game adventure -- Spencer (Alex Wolff), Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) -- went back to play the game again, inadvertently bringing two elderly guys in with them: Spencer's curmudgeonly grandfather Eddie (Danny de Vito) and estranged best friend who came for a surprise visit, Milo (Danny Glover). 

While Martha was still Ruby like before, everyone else were in a different avatar. Fridge became the nerdy Prof. Shelly (Jack Black), Spencer became skilled burglar Ming (Awkwafina) and Bethany became Cyclone, a black stallion. Eddie gave Dr. Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) an annoying stubbornness, while Milo gave Mouse (Kevin Hart) a slow deliberate pace of speech. Their new mission was to recover a valuable jewel from the murderous Jurgen the Brutal (Rory McCann).

Switch-ups of abilities and newly-discovered skills made for a novel, hilarious adventure throughout Jumanji as they go from one video-game challenge to another, like a desert with a rampaging herd of pecking ostriches, a chasm with rotating rope bridges harboring vicious mandrills, and many more perils just to achieve their mission. The script never let you forget that this was a video game, with robotic non-player characters, menus of strengths and weaknesses, and bars on their arm indicating their three lives. 

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The game avatar cast Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Awkwafina had a great time delivering their lines and humorously acting like the real person they were representing. This was especially true for the more distinctive elderly Danny de Vito and Danny Glover characters, although the clueless old stereotype jokes did go a bit long and repetitive at points. Karen Gillan's Ruby Roundhouse avatar was as athletic and no-nonsense as ever, though not too much comedy from her this time.

An extra mid-credits scene promises a next sequel which seems to suggest that all the video game mayhem may now actually cross over to the real world, like it did in the original "Jumanji" film in 1995. 

So far, in the last two films, the players do not really feel like they were in any actual danger because of the whole virtual video game milieu. Getting Bravestone and his Jumanji crew to make that big jump into Spencer's hometown of Brantford should be something worth looking forward to. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."