Years ago the jungle came to us, three years ago we went into the jungle, and this weekend, we go back into the jungle? No, I’m no some crackpot reviewer losing it to all the movies and stress of the holidays, I’m just talking about Jumanji. The late Robin Williams and his merry band of misfits tackled the wild frontier of magical board game, where danger came with every role. The revival brought a new coat of paint in the form of a video game and updated the adventure into one all about Avatars and the jungle itself. With big success, it was time bring yet another movie, in hopes of bringing the success. Did it work? I’m happy to share my thoughts as we explore:
Film: Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)
- Good Visuals
- Expansion Of The World
- Very Good Pace
- Utilization Of Most Characters Well
- Character Development
- Fresh Jokes And Running Gag Balance
- Funny Overall
- More Animal Escapades
- Missing Some Of The Adventurous Side Of Things
- Cop Outs
- Rushed Storytelling, Especially At End
- Lame Villain, again…
This franchise has always been about adventure and that spirit continues to run wild in the next level. The dive back into the fictitious world still comes at you in a rush, with danger waiting around every turn (mostly) and keeping you into the wild ride. Modern technology continues to push more engaging animation, and all the new CGI creations hold that movie theater magic to further envelope you into the fury of the jungle. Even better, is though they start in the same place, the Next Level really did take it to the next level, and expanded the borders further to the world. This evolution allows the familiarity of the movie to remain, but still be new as well and that really worked for me enjoying this very familiar adventure. Not only expanding the world, but the characters, this franchise continues to find a place for its expanding cast, doing quite well to integrate all the stars into the adventure and make it worth their inclusion. While the new direction of the characters is mostly comedy, I was pleased with the character development that took place, once more helping dive further into many of the characters to give them more than just an Avatar face lift, often without taking too many detours to unnecessarily bloat the run time. Of course most are going to go for the comedy, and this is definitely the meat of the Jumanji adventure. The new people inhabiting the avatars opens the world for not only new performances, but new jokes and delivery techniques that were funny to see in all their variety. Don’t worry though folks, you’ll still have references and nods to the original gags, and you can bet there will be a few running bits to keep you engrossed. It’s a nice dynamic across the board and diverse in its selection, but for me the acting is probably the key point for the humor. The Rock having to act like Danny DeVito’s elderly character gaining a second life is hysterical, and Kevin Hart portraying Danny Glover are the two stunts that worked well in the universe. However, it’s Jack Black who steals the show again for me, having to play multiple perspectives, deliver the well-written (and probably best written lines) with the perfect emphasis, and throw the facial gestures into perfection. Solidly though, it was a welcome revisit to the luscious forest of comedic gold.
Yet there are still some things I think this adventure is missing for me. Outside of a lot of the adventure being shown in trailers, the movie still is missing some of the animal escapades I loved in the original. Perhaps trying to keep things balanced, I still miss the ever-expanding danger on the world that these remakes have not quite hit, rather turning the dangers to stages where the threats drop at certain points. While still a fun adventure, I have to say it’s missing that complete, integrated game feel the first installment had and I would have liked to see that come back in this one. The film also starts running into the problem of lower run times and starts to cop out on certain things, primarily in actual hard obstacles, more character development of other characters, and definitely some storytelling elements that are majorly dropped. Especially at the end, things that were in buildup sort of suddenly appear, and for the sake of comedy, the story takes some hits that though entertaining do not live up to the campy story from long ago. Finally, the modern-day adventure movie seems to still struggle with making a good villain and the next level did not elevate that whatsoever. Jumanji’s new antagonist is a shallow, one dimensional character, who had great potential, but then pushed to the backburner. Why they can’t recreate the huntsman from the first film, I don’t know, but this has to be the biggest limiting factor for me in this film.
Overall, Jumanji’s return was a very entertaining and decently balanced film. It somehow manages to make the familiar, same adventure we have known be fresh, with well written lines and humor to keep you engrossed in the film. For such a brisk pace, it manages to keep things well juggled, finding a nice medium between story, action, and comedy that it should be entertaining for most audiences. And with this cast that you get, well you will not be disappointed to see how well utilized most of the group is, something I can’t brag about enough in this modern era of unbalanced delivery. Still, the film fails at the end to really capitalize on the story telling components, and has not quite achieved the full integration effect for me that I hope to see, especially given the weaker antagonist. Looking at this though, the movie is definitely worth a check out and I hope you guys give a theater visit given all the special effects and humor.
A WORD OF CAUTION, if you are thinking of taking younger audience members be warned there is lots of strong language that little ears may repeat. Take note of that before planning.
Movie Overall: 7.0