“Jumanji: The Next Level” is a disappointment


From left, Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan and Jack Black in a scene from “Jumanji: The Next Level” [Hiram Garcia/Sony] USA

William Becker, Staff Writer

Mainstream audiences were first blessed with “Jumanji” in late 1995, which starred the late Robin Williams. This first film, which was based upon a children’s book written by Chris Van Allsburg, spawned an animated TV show, a vaguely related movie called “Zathura: A Space Adventure,” before a continuation of the series came in 2017 with “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” All four of these films follow a pretty similar format: various children who play a magic game either find themselves trapped within the game itself or find dangerous elements of the games escaping into the real world.

“Jumanji” and “Zathura,” the two earlier films, are fairly similar, with the cast playing a board game and then crazy things happening in the real world because of the board game. They are both flawed but extremely interesting fantasy adventure films. The two recent films, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and “Jumanji: The Next Level” are still fantasy adventure films, but notably focus on the characters being trapped with a video game instead of a board game attacking them, while also embracing a much more comedic element, with actors such as Jack Black, Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Nick Jonas. The first of the modern films made nearly a billion dollars, so a sequel was clearly inevitable.

“Jumanji: The Next Level” is a decent but mostly unnecessary film. There is still the mildly amusing comedy, only this time around, the comedy feels much more repetitive. At first, Danny Devito’s character is hilarious, but after the first act when he becomes trapped in the game as Dwanye Johnson, his mannerisms and jokes become fairly one-note, and with that, extremely annoying. Danny Devito is the only part of the formula that feels changed in comparison to the first film. Beyond that, after the first 30 minutes of the film, any viewer can probably guess how things are going to go. You will laugh a few times, feel mildly sad three-quarters of the way into the film like most comedies ever released, the star will probably end up getting the girl of his dreams and then the cast is going to laugh about their adventure in a cafe at the end of the film.

“Jumanji: The Next Level” is not offensively bad, or really even bad at all, but the fact that it is so inoffensively average makes it completely and totally boring. There are no risks taken here, no overly exciting moments, no massive developments to the story and nothing that comes even close to the glory of the original “Jumanji” or even “Zathura.” It is very clear that this movie is just a cash grab without many purposes. The 10-plus dollars that you would spend on the ticket this Christmas season would be better spent on a DVD copy of one of the first two movies.