As of writing this review, it is almost the middle of December. This time of the year for film critics is a relatively exhausting time. While attempting to see all the movies that are being this month, we are mainly trying to play catch-up on the movies that we missed throughout the year so that we can compile our “end of the year” lists. It’s a great time for those who love movies, but it does get tiring.
The movies that are released this time of year are also a bit tasking. This is the time of year where Oscar movies flood the theaters, which usually means the movies are heavier and more intense. Not that there is anything wrong with this, but it is tough sometimes to want to watch another movie about Nazi’s or a heavy relationship drama or a movie that clocks in at nearly three hours. Sometimes I just want a movie that doesn’t require a ton of thinking and is just a fun ride.
Jumanji: The Next Level came at the absolute right time. Taking all the fun from the first film and taking it to new heights, this sequel is filled with thrilling action and constant comedy that the irrelevant plot and character beats simply do not matter, making this a film you can simply turn your brain off and enjoy for what it is.
Since there last adventure into the Jumanji video game, Spencer (Alex Wolff), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner), and Bethany (Madison Iseman) have all grown close, even as they are at separate colleges across the country. They are all excited to see each other on winter break except for Spencer, who isn’t having a great time at college and is insecure about his relationship with Martha. In an attempt to feel confidence again, Spencer goes back into Jumanji so that he could embody Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson). When Fridge, Martha, and Bethany find this out, they are forced to enter the game once again to save their friend only to find that some things have changed. Martha is still Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), but Fridge goes into the body of Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black), and Bravestone and backpacker Franklin Finbar (Kevin Hart) are embodied by Spencer’s grandfather Eddie (Danny DeVito), who is Bravestone, and Eddie’s friend Milo (Danny Glover), who is Franklin. Together they go on a mission to find Spencer while also complete the mission to save Jumaji.
Watching Dwayne Johnson impersonate Denny DeVito and Kevin Hart impersonate Danny Glover will have you rolling. With the combination of quick, smart writing, and pitch-perfect delivery, Johnson and Hart are scene stealers. The best part of their performances is how they are playing against what they usually do as actors. Johnson is one of the true modern action stars, flexing more muscle than dialog, yet Eddie’s Bravestone is loud, annoying, and confusing, rarely flashing his muscles and convinced he has either died or gone to Florida, which some might consider to be the same thing. Hart is a quick talking loud-mouth, yet Milo’s Franklin is a slow talking and easy going, not in a rush to do anything. Johnson and Hart are a delightful on-screen pairing and their performances here are terrific.
The film is really a showcase for Karen Gillan and ushers her in as an up-and-coming leading action star. Known mostly for her fierce and blue Nebula in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Gillan shows she has a commanding screen presence, endless charisma, and serious action chops. As the only character who got the same avatar from their first visit into the game, it’s cool to see Gillan play the formerly shy Martha with more confidence in her abilities as Ruby Roundhouse, yet still feels the need to cross her arms and feel uncomfortable in her rather skimpy outfit. In a cast full of heavyweights, Gillan comes out of it
The rest of Next Level is a lot of fun action and that’s about it. The levels are bigger and crazier in this one, pitting our heroes against their toughest tasks like being chased by hundreds of ostrich in a dessert or wildly aggressive monkeys attacking them while on a number of rotating bridges. It’s wild, thrilling stuff.
There are a number of subplots but none of them really matter at the end of the day. There’s a villain, played by Rory McCann, who stole some sort of valuable stone that they are trying to get back. The lovely Awkwafina plays a new character in the game who’s body gets inhabited by a few characters. There are also themes about friendship, growing apart, and forgiveness, with the film ending with a sweet ending I didn’t think this movie was capable of.
Jumanji: Next Level is a summer blockbuster in the winter. A big, dumb, exciting action adventure with a great cast and tons of humor. You don’t have to think and most of the plot doesn’t matter. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.
Follow Kevflix on Twitter and Instagram, @kevflix, and on Facebook by searching Kevflix.