“Jumanji II: The Next Level” hit theatres in December with some of the biggest stars in Hollywood, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, Awkwafina and even Danny DeVito himself. The sequel to the remake of “Jumanji” exploded with these well-distinguished artists, which was sure to attract a bit of an audience.
The movie begins with the four main characters—Spencer, Martha, Fridge and Bethany—and their lives after high school. Spencer, seeming ill-content with his life at NYU, ignores his friends’ efforts to see him. He reveals that he kept the Jumanji video game from when he first played it in high school. On his first day home, he jumps back into the game.
After his friends come looking for him, they too get stuck within the game once again along with Spencer’s grandpa, Eddie, and Eddie’s former best friend and business partner, Milo. This time Bethany is left out of the game.
But something isn’t the same. Each character gets a new avatar, and it feels almost like a crime against character type. The Rock getting to act like Danny DeVito, Jack Black portraying a popular football jock, and Kevin Hart looking like he took three Xanax before each scene. This seemed like an interesting opportunity for different kinds of interaction between characters and a solid reason for actors to play different roles than what they’re known for.
It goes on for too long, however. Over half the movie is Martha, Fridge, Eddy and Milo trying to find Spencer. It isn’t until the movie is nearly finished that they find him and Bethany and Alex show up. This time Bethany makes an appearance as a horse named Cyclone.
When the characters are finally able to switch into their proper avatars, it’s time to go up against the main baddie, a cold Viking type character who stole yet another jewel of Jumanji.
Overall, the movie kept up with its fun, fast-paced plotline, but could have diverged a little from the path the first remake made— bad guy steals jewel, Jumanji dying, characters have to steal back jewel, show it to the sun and call out its name.
However, instead of new plot points in the story, new characters and ideas are introduced. This led to some entertaining dynamics, conflicts and interactions.
But the stakes weren’t high. The characters would lose their “lives” and not even bat an eye. Characters lost lives for subpar jokes and for the sake of slapstick comedy. In the first movie, you were never able to lose track of how many lives a character had. This time around you had no clue if the next time someone died or not. This really took away the characters’ connection to the audience. The relationship didn’t feel as important.
As far as character arcs, the film does a pretty good job circling through motivations and emotions. The characters are driven and each has their own goals throughout the movie. The relationship between Eddie and Milo is sure to bring a few tears.
“Jumanji II: The Next Level” sticks to its roots as a lovable action-adventure comedy with engaging character roles and interesting concepts. And Awkwafina playing Danny DeVito is always worth the watch.
Sarah Strang can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @sarahstrang100.