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"Jumanji" takes it to "The Next Level" with funny, heart-warming sequel

Writer: Florey DM

L-R: Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson and Karen Gillan reprise their respective roles in "Jumanji: The Next Level".
L-R: Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson and Karen Gillan reprise their
respective roles in "Jumanji: The Next Level".

"Jumanji: The Next Level", the sequel to 2017's "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle", is now playing in cinemas. Fans will get to see familiar as well as new faces in the action-packed and humorous yet heartwarming movie. We've seen the sequel on the big screen and here are our thoughts on it:

The quirky combination of old and new characters

They're not who you think they are. (Except one).

The four main stars of the new "Jumanji" movie series – Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart and Jack Black – return to play their respective avatar characters: Dr. Smolder Bravestone, Ruby Roundhouse, Franklin "Mouse" Finbar and Professor Sheldon "Shelly" Oberon. Don't expect to see the same old avatars, though, as these ones not only have new players but also new additional abilities!

Alex Wolff, Madison Iseman, Ser'Darius Blain and Morgan Turner also reprises their roles as Spencer, Bethany, Fridge and Martha, who have graduated high school and are now walking their own paths in life, which sees Spencer studying while working in New York, Bethany doing charity across the globe, Fridge upping his jock game in college and Martha enjoying her newfound popularity as a cool college girl.

However, this time around, the teens will not be paired with their previous avatars, due to not having the option to select their avatars before being transported back into the game. (More on this later). This leads to a very hilarious body/identity mix-up. For example: Shelly is no longer Bethany's avatar, so his behaviour in this sequel is very much different from the preppy one he had in the previous movie. He now takes on the tougher behaviour of his new "player", who is very much unhappy with being stuck in Shelly's rather...unathletic body.

There are also new characters added in, Eddie Gilpin (Danny DeVito) and his friend, Milo Walker (Danny Glover), who are unwittingly transported into the game. In keeping with the "old people can't understand video games" trope, these two characters are the comic reliefs who just can't seem to grasp that they are forcefully participating in a game where their actual lives are at stake, leading to various hilarious situations. (Like the very unnecessary fight between the two of them, much to the others' dismay).

Same cast (largely), different vibes

Not all the avatars get jumbled up, by the way.

For Wolff, Iseman, Blain and Turner, their characters as Spencer, Bethany, Fridge and Martha are pretty much just a slightly grown version of the ones they played in the previous movie. So the quartet don't require much changes in their acting style to portray them. The real challenge is thrown to The Rock, Gillan, Hart and Black, since they have to portray the same avatars with different players this time around.

Fans who are so used to seeing The Rock smoulder (be it in movies or real life) will find his role here takes some getting used to. He does do comedic characters from time to time but let's face it, people go to the cinema to watch him punch things, be heroic and throw cool one-liners – also, smoulder. Still, considering who his player is in the game, he actually does a very good job of embodying the player's traits. Gillan doesn't need to change much because she returns as Ruby, except that one part she changes to another player. But she's already proven her capability in throwing kicks and punches (remember "GOTG's" Nebula?), so she plays her roles in the movie effortlessly.

Now we come to the real doozies, Hart and Black. Their roles are vastly different from the ones in the first movie but still very funny. It's interesting to see Hart talking that slow because even in real life he tends to speak in hyper mode. As for Black, his constant grumbling as someone so health-conscious is just as comedic as his portrayal of a self-centered teen girl.

We haven't mentioned that Nick Jonas also returns as Jefferson "Seaplane" McDonough, while Colin Hanks is back as adult Alex Vreeke. Apart from DeVito and Glover, another new addition to the cast is Awkwafina, who is an in-game avatar that has two players, so we see her adopt first a more reserved persona before switching to a more outspoken one.

Leveled-up storyline

Like the title promises, the sequel takes it to the next level.

Let's back it up a little and find out how the teens end up back in a game that they've destroyed and said they'd never return to in the last movie. Long story short, Spencer's friends notice he's gone missing and when they find the halfway fixed game console in his house, they realise that they must enter "Jumanji" once again to retrieve him. As the machine is broken, there is no way for them to choose their avatars before playing, which, as mentioned above, leads to their avatars getting jumbled up among them once they enter the game.

There's a bit more complexity to the plot compared to the first movie, which gives it that extra edge it needs in order to make it a worthy sequel to its highly appraised predecessor. The first movie saw the group of friends familiarising themselves to the game, this sequel sees them as seasoned players – who are unfortunately thrown into very unfamiliar predicament, like that whole avatar-switch thing, so in the end they're still very much re-learning how to survive while dealing with each other's odd avatars.

Angry, angry action

From the ground to the sky, action all the way!

The first movie was already very action-packed, this time the sequel ups the ante with angry ostriches, angry hyenas, angry mandrills – well, you get the picture, lots of angry animals. Starting from the first moment the friends and grandpas enter the game, they are thrown straight into an adrenaline-fueled chase scene. Plenty more chase scenes can be expected since they do anger a lot more animals and even more other in-game characters.

From the ground to the sky, the "Jumanji" gang takes on plenty of action-packed challenges. Dr. Bravestone, despite not being able to smoulder at the right moment, still throw some pretty mean punches. Ruby, as mentioned, gets to show off her kick-ass moves no matter which player is using her. Mouse, well, his slow talking is what elevates the tenseness in the action scenes. Shelly, he...he helps. Not much action moves coming from him but he does help in action scenes, yes, he does.

Humourous yet heart-warming

Facing danger together always leads to stronger friendship, they say.

Apart from the action, "Jumanji" also delivers on the comedy front. The mixed-up avatars make for a hilarious setup. Humour can be found in both dialogues and body gags. There are also references to the previous movie (cake, Mouse?) that fans would appreciate.

However, some of the tears rolling down audiences' cheeks might not be just from all that laughing. As there are heart-warming moments in the movie, especially towards the end.

As the credits roll, it is time to ponder on the messages the movie tries to relay to its audience. For this "Jumanji" movie series, it's always been about friendship. In the previous movie, four very different high school students form an unlikely friendship at the end of it. In this sequel, the friendship is starting to waver but as they go through another thrilling "Jumanji" adventure together, the four friends who become slightly estranged after graduation once again discover their strong bond. But it's not just the young ones who have a thing or two to learn about friendship. Eddie and Milo, old friends who've been estranged for 15 years, also learn the value of friendship and of growing older and wiser.

BONUS: Don't leave immediately when the credits start rolling, stay in your seat for a mid-credits scene. (No, it won't take long, so keep still).

Cinema Online, 11 December 2019

Related Movies:
Jumanji: The Next Level (13 Dec 2019)
Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle (21 Dec 2017)

Jwplayer article page COKH (English)

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