'Jumanji: The Next Level' Sticks with a Formula That Works Directed by Jake Kasdan
Starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Awkwafina, Karen Gillan, Danny DeVito, Danny Glover, Nick Jonas, Alex Wolff
Published Dec 13, 2019The Jumanji franchise has never failed to satisfy audiences, and it comes as no surprise that the newest sequel, Jumanji: The Next Level, continues that streak of being extremely enjoyable no matter what age you may be. Writer and director Jake Kasdan manages to repeat the exact same formula that he brought to life in 2017's Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and somehow it's still just as charming and successful.
Our endearing friends from the previous film have started college and gone their separate ways, and everyone is enjoying their newfound independence — except for Spencer (Alex Wolff). He sees how great his friends' lives are going as he mindlessly scrolls through social media, but his freshman year isn't going well, and he simply can't relate. He is longing to feel as superior and courageous as he did when he was in the body of Dr. Bravestone (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson). When Spencer doesn't show up for brunch over the winter break, his friends go looking for him at his house, where they meet his grandfather Eddie (Danny DeVito) along with his friend and ex-business partner Milo (Danny Glover). They soon realize that Spencer has ventured back into the game (which had been shattered into small pieces), and before they can decide what the best option is, that decision is made for them when they're sucked back into the jungle.
Now, with the game being broken, things are quite different than last time. The course within and the objectives have changed, and the only person in the same character body is Martha (portrayed in the game by scene-stealer Karen Gillan). This means that Danny DeVito is now being personified by the Rock, which, as you'd assume, makes for a lot of well-earned laughs. Getting Johnson and Kevin Hart to put their acting skills to the test and perform perfect impersonations of the two Dannies was an incredible decision, since it really makes the whole film come together and makes everything that much easier to laugh at. The lovable and goofy Awkwafina also joins the cast, using her perfect comedic timing to advantage during slower scenes that may not get as much attention.
The best part about this franchise is watching the actors have so much fun — each person is so very clearly having the best time in their roles, and it makes the film ten times more enjoyable to watch. The chemistry between the four main avatars (Johnson and Hart specifically) finds an intimate way to make these high-scale films work, when it's possible that they ultimately may have fallen flat with different casting choices. It's always entertaining to see these actors impersonating other people who are their polar opposites, and there is no shortage of that here.
Jumanji: The Next Level takes all of the components that made the prior film so fantastic and accelerates them to the highest standard, making the film stand on its own while also complementing the first entry. It seems as though Kasdan and his team have found the perfect formula for continuing a beloved franchise that everyone is eating up.