Two years ago, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was a smash holiday hit that reached almost a billion dollars at the box office. While the film was only loosely based on Robin William’s iconic film from the 90s, it was still fun, well-paced, and well-acted by an all-star ensemble cast. Given the box office haul, it is not surprising that the film got a sequel and Sony wasted no time releasing the film’s successor Jumanji The Next Level to capitalize on the franchise’s success. If you are looking forward to the sequel, I’m here to tell you while it is more of the same, further proof that not everything needs a sequel.
Jumanji The Next Level begins shortly after the events of the first movie. Spencer has repaired the Jumanji video game that they broke at the end of the first film in trying to re-enter the world and become Dr. Smolder Bravestone again. However, the busted game sends him back without being able to choose a character. Then his friends discover that he is missing, they arrive at his grandfather’s house to discover the game is active but broken. They accidentally trap everyone in the house into the game and now they must beat Jumanji again to bring everyone home.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was a solid film, neither great or terrible and Jumanji The Next Level offers nothing new to the table. We get introduced to some new characters played by Awkwafina, Danny Glover, and Danny DeVito, but their roles are largely just to add a very weak subplot to the story which keeps it from being a carbon copy of the first. Karen Gillan is given more screentime for the sequel as her character is the only mainstay to earn some development outside of Kevin Hart, who is just doing a Danny Glover impersonation for the first hour. Everyone else is playing a character within a character, a bit falls flat early on and doesn’t get better. The script tries to give everyone something to do to the point that oversaturation leaves them with nothing. The set pieces look better visually this time around, but it isn’t as exciting creatively. The film excels in bigger but fails at better.
Jumanji The Next Level feels like a film that was written to justify its existence. If are expecting a fun popcorn flick, it isn’t the worst option, but it definitely isn’t the best.