In an attempt to coast on what made its predecessor special, The Next Level turns out as more of a downgrade than an upgrade.
Billed as a sequel to the 1995 hit Jumanji, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle landed in theaters in December of 2017. Many, including myself, were surprised to discover just how enjoyable the film was. The movie was able to carve itself a niche in the Christmas box office and ended its run with almost a billion dollars globally. Safe to say, Sony wasted no time producing a sequel.
The Next Level isn’t all bad. In fact, there’s much to enjoy about it. That being said the film’s more bland than not. To be fair, though, this is based mostly off comparison to the first film.
Welcome to the Jungle was able to exhibit a unique style of humor based around body-switching. Adult actors got to play against their types and poke fun at themselves. Along with this, the film carried heartfelt messages about courage and coming together.
Though The Next Level uses a few new ingredients, it is, ultimately, a very similar meal to its predecessor. The film attempts to coast on the same style of humor and, once again, presents messages about bravery and companionship. Unfortunately, there’s not much more meat added to its bones and none of those aspects work as well the second time around.
Along with losing its fresh feel, the body-switching humor worked better when the avatars were playing teenagers. Now that our key characters have matured, it’s not as fun to watch them survive the perils of Jumanji.
The Next Level isn’t completely dry when it comes to comedy, however. Even if the movie isn’t as wittily-written as ‘Welcome to the Jungle,’ there are still lots of genuine laughs to be had here. Kevin Hart and Awkwafina steal the show and provide the most giggles.
Speaking of Jumanji‘s perils, the film had a few very well-executed action sequences. One in particular, involving bridges and monkeys, is very unique, thrilling, and even a bit suspenseful.
I must also give credit to the The Next Level for upping its scale and extensively expanding its world. All without losing the small feel of the first film, may I add.
Unfortunately, though, the movie failed to up its stakes as well. This is due to it having a very similar set-up, goal, and villain as the first film.
To end on a positive note, I’d like to mention this movie’s final scene. The film ended with a cliffhanger. And a very good one too. I left the theater feeling satisfied yet intrigued. And, to be honest, I’d happily sit through a fourth ‘Jumanji’ movie.
That being said, I can’t downplay the problems I had with this film. So, in conclusion, I’ll say this: Jumanji: The Next Level provides a few hearty laughs and manages to up its scale in the way a sequel should. The film, however, sticks too closely to its predecessor and ends up bland because of it.
Final Rating: ★★★☆☆