Jumanji: The Next Level

Jumanji: "The Next Level" reunites writer/director Jake Kasdan with his co-stars from the previous Jumaji (Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg) and the entire original cast, both in and out of the game. Add Danny DeVito, Danny Glover and Awkwafina to the new mix, and you have a film that stands next to Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.


The teenagers who originally played the game together graduated from high school and went to college. Now the semester is over and they are all looking forward to meeting. The only exception is Spencer, who has lost his confidence. Instead of dating, Spencer decides to return to the game, where he feels like he is more than he is in real life. When his friends discover what he has done, they are determined to save him from a new, deadlier adventure in the desert. In the process, they accidentally bring new players with them.


The story is logical, with everything that could be expected from a sequel. The adventures are both funny and harrowing, and the pacing remains consistent throughout. It is at its best when it explores the bonds of friendship and family, how they change over the years (and even decades) and what tests their relationships. The lessons never seem necessary in a script that constantly pushes them.


Kasdan once again brings a unique style to the direction, bringing a great cast of actors to the adventure in such a way that audiences never see the actors in the characters. His talents mesh so well with the actors that the relationship seems symbiotic. Dwayne Johnson smolders and Karen Gillan kicks ass, while Jack Black and Kevin Hart provide information and comic relief - all exceptionally timely. Awkwafina, like Ming, is a fun addition to the cast, especially in the second half of the film after she undergoes a change in character.


The score combines with tight cinematography to keep the film at a pleasant pace, although there are a few scenes that seem to drag on a little longer than necessary. The CGI and special effects work well with the live action rather than interrupting it, adding a modern video game dimension to the story.


Jumanji: "The Next Level" is a fun, entertaining film that can appeal to audiences of all ages. The combination of a solid script, exceptional story direction and an outstanding cast will not leave viewers feeling empty on the next level.