Movie Review: Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)

Synopsis: Three years after escaping from the video game version of Jumanji, Spencer, Fridge, Bethany and Martha plan to reunite for the holidays. Spencer, feeling his life has been spiraling downhill since high school, decides to try to regain some of his confidence by repairing the game and, eventually, his friends, his grandfather and his grandfather's friend are dragged into Jumanji as well.

Who's in it? The movie stars Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, Danny Glover and Danny DeVito.

Review: I almost forgot this was out on DVD until I came across it on Netflix. When I did, I was quick to add it to the top of my queue and we ended up watching the movie, as a family, this weekend. Overall, I have to say I enjoyed the film. But, as is usually the case with sequels, it did lack something when compared to the movie that preceded it.

I'm going to start out by saying I loved the way the movie decided to mix things up. Not only were the friends not able to choose who their characters were this time around, the game also picked the players. Watching Johnson do his best Danny DeVito impersonation was actually kind of funny, as was the need to explain the video gaming world to two men while trying to fend off all sorts of enemies.

The addition of two new characters and a new game "cheat" that allowed them to switch avatars mid-game was also a nice touch. Some parts of the film still managed to be a little predictable, especially when it came to Milo (Glover). But, I thought it also kept things a little fresh, even though the part with Fridge (Black) and Martha (Gillan) temporarily switching bodies seemed a little too much like a scene out of the movie Scooby Doo.

Unfortunately, while we liked the film, it definitely was a step down when compared to Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. In particular, I was kind of disappointed the movie didn't focus more on the various avatar weaknesses, which was one of the funnier aspects of the previous installment.

This is especially true of the Bravestone character (Johnson) who, after having no weaknesses in the first movie, had a surprise addition, "Switchblade." This turns out to be the name of one of the bad guys (sorry for the mild spoiler) but, ultimately, it never truly gets played out, at least not in a way that made me feel as though Bravestone had to overcome his one weakness in order to win.

I'm probably overthinking this a bit, but I'm also a little confused over the malfunctioning game thing. Jumanji is supposed to be a mystical game and, in the first movie, changed from a board game to a video game. Yet, this time around, it couldn't repair itself despite all the pieces being in one place? I would believe that before I would believe Spencer was smart enough to repair the game system himself.

Final Opinion: The movie has its moments and, as I said, we did enjoy watching it. But, it was a step down from the previous installment and, if there's another sequel (which the film hints at), I honestly will have some doubts about it.

My Grade: B


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