4 out of 5 stars
We are going back into the game with the Rock and his team after Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. No one could have predicted that the previous film would go on to become Sony Pictures highest-grossing movie. The fantasy became a reality that this was something audiences wanted to see again. Director Jake Kasden is back with the fabulous four for more action that will take them on adventures outside of the jungle and will include some new adventurers into the mix.
Since we last saw the adventurous foursome together, Spencer (Alex Wolff) has graduated high school along with his friends. He is attending New York University and things are not going well since high school, which makes it hard for him to look forward to going home. Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner), and Bethany (Madison Iseman) all seem to have found themselves after their high school days. They cannot wait to get together with the gang to share how life is going over the past year. The problem is that Spencer has been avoiding them and even avoids their meetup upon returning home. Then to add to life’s misery, he realises that his grandpa Eddie (Danny DeVito) has moved into his room at home to recover from hip surgery.
Life seems to be going from bad to worse, all Spencer desires is to go back to the time when everything felt right. Even though the team had destroyed the gaming console that housed Jumanji after their time in the game, the young gamer had gone back and salvaged the machine. He goes into the basement and pulls out the pieces that remain and attempts to bring it back to life as an attempt to recapture the past magic.
The following morning his three friends meet to catch up, but wonder where Spencer has gone and decide to head to his house to find out. Upon arrival they meet Grandpa Eddie and his friend and former business partner, Milo Walker (Danny Glover). They search the house for their friend and discover that he must have gone back into the game which eventually pulls them all back into the game, along with the two older men. Nigel Billingsley (Rhys Darby) introduces the team to the next level of Jumanji that will include new characters and personal skills. They must try to save this world from a warlord named Jurgen the Brutal (Rory McCann) and recover the magical necklace called the Falcon's Heart.
Kasden and the team continue to show why we love this team of adventurers. A group of people that the world can relate to and who we look forward to joining on a new adventure. This next chapter provides the right number of new characters to keep the franchise fresh while maintaining the elements that made the magic in the original. Things take some time to get started as they need to develop the backgrounds of the new players and show what has come of our heroes over the past few years. Yet, once they enter the game, things move into high gear until the closing credits.
The challenge for the central characters within the game is that they must take on new personas from the original film. At different points Dwayne Johnson must take on the demeanour of Devito and Kevin Hart must represent Glover to make for a new level of hilarity that adds some spice to the hijinks. Karen Gillan gets to remain as Ruby Roundhouse for most of the film. She is allowed to develop her role into more of a leadership position. While Jack Black’s Professor Sheldon "Shelly" Oberon must contend with being inhabited by Fridge’s personality which he manages to take on with delight. All of these make for great challenges for the cast, and they all manage to meet the expectations. The highlight of the new characters has to be Awkwafina who mixes into the team seamlessly and adds a whole new level of personality to the franchise.
Despite the slow start, this is an excellent addition to this franchise and one that the whole family can enjoy. The magic remains for this next chapter and the audience will need to buckle up because it is going to be a fast-paced and bumpy ride to the finish.
What should parents know about Jumanji: The Next Level? This chapter has all of the magic and energy of the first outing into the gaming world. The themes of death and forgiveness may be a bit above the heads of the little ones. Also, they have ramped up the foul language in this adventure. Jack Black’s interpretation of Fridge includes more cursing than the original. The language is a detail that is worth parents being aware of going into the cinema.
What will parents be talking about in the car after the film? The relationships of most of the film centre on the need to forgive one another. It will open a door for parents to talk about this topic with the kids. It is easy to see how bitterness and confusion take over people’s lives when forgiveness is not offered to friends and family. There are other topics like friendship, death and travelling through difficult times in life in Jumanji: The Next Level, but forgiveness is a great conversation starter after seeing the film.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32