I was a big fan of the 2017 reinstallment “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” and I had high hopes, as well as worries, heading into “Jumanji: The Next Level.”

The 2017 movie had an interesting, different take on the original book and movie. However, I was worried that the story would be copied and pasted into  “Next Level.” I was right and wrong. 

The movie had a few similarities to “Welcome to the Jungle,” but it was also able to stay new and relevant. In the previous movie, four teens were transported into a video game; this time, three teens and two old men who hardly knew what video games were took on the challenge.

College students Martha (Morgan Turner) and Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) –alongside Eddie (Danny DeVito), Spencer’s grandfather; and Milo (Danny Glover), Eddie’s former business partner – have to go to Jumanji to rescue their friend Spencer (Alex Wolff).

In the book and original movie, Jumanji is a board game that sucks its players into the game, and to escape, the players have to beat the game. In “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Next Level,” the players are put into a video game rather than a board game.

Once transported into the game, the players become their chosen characters. Fridge becomes professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black),  a cartographer; Martha becomes Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), killer of men; Eddie becomes Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), international explorer and famed archeologist; and Milo becomes Franklin Finbar (Kevin Hart), a zoologist.

This was an unusual and enjoyable change from the previous movie. The two elderly men are hilariously confused throughout the movie, constantly causing trouble for everyone else. The movie’s jokes and humor had both the audience and me laughing, which I find rare for a film.

The characters were put into a completely different world than in “Welcome to the Jungle,” something that none of them had experienced. In addition to the unfamiliar new level, each character had received new qualities, some being strengths and others weaknesses. I really enjoyed this addition; it forced the college students to have to work together with the elderly men and solve their problems together.

I did, however, have a problem with the movie. One of the four friends who wasn’t transported into the game appeared out of nowhere in the middle of one of the stages.

Bethany, one of the four friends from the original, is stuck outside the game, attempting to help her friends escape from the outside. She seeks the help of Alex Vreeke (Colin Hanks), a kid from who was trapped in Jumanji since the ’90s until being rescued in the first movie. Bethany asks Alex for help fixing the Jumanji game console so she can help her friends in the game.

Spoilers:
In the final stage before the end of the game, the characters are surrounded by vicious monkeys and are about to lose their final lives when Bethany and Alex show up out of nowhere to rescue them.
The problem with this is that after the characters weren’t even mentioned for over half the movie, they show up and save the day. Did they go through all the prior stages that the others did? Did they lose any lives in the process? How did they get to the end of that level before everyone else? It’s annoying whenever this happens, and it would be a bit better if an explanation was given.

Overall, I really liked this movie. It had a good story with action and adventure. Plus, the idea of DeVito’s mind in Johnson’s body is very funny. “The Next Level” tied in well with “Welcome to the Jungle” and left room for a possible fifth movie.

★★★★☆

By Miles Morrow

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