'Jumanji: The Next Level' - Movie Review

I'm not a fan of sequels: if you read my reviews, you'll find I almost never like them. Even when I do, I consider them inferior to their original (in this case, a movie I really enjoyed). The one stand-out exception is the Kung Fu Panda series. Given what I knew of this movie from its trailer - Danny Glover and Danny DeVito as old guys who get sucked into the game along with the crew from the previous movie - I was sure this would be worse. Last time, Jack Black put it out of the park playing a self-absorbed teenage girl trapped in a middle-aged man's body ... but this time Dwayne Johnson had to play a cranky old man (DeVito) in the body of the muscular star of the video game. Don't get me wrong: I love Johnson. But his strength has never been acting: he's charming, charismatic, and powerful, but not a great actor. I thought Kevin Hart would have the same problem being Glover's character. I was pretty sure this movie was doomed from the start.

So let's start there. Did their weak acting sink the movie? Hell no. I'm not going to claim either was brilliant, but they were actually pretty good. And a funny script goes a long way towards forgiveness. DeVito and Glover both put in short appearances at the beginning of the movie, and both are painted in broad strokes so the audience gets the point quickly and we can move on to the in-game part. Spencer (Alex Wolff) has resurrected the busted Jumanji game console because he's insecure and wants to be Braveheart again, and his friends dive in after to pull him out, but nothing works as they expect - not least because the game is no longer the same.

It's completely absurd, it's goofy, it's very funny, and it even manages to create the tension needed to keep the plot moving. I'm very happy to say that this is a lot of fun, and the equal of its predecessor.