If you enjoyed the surprisingly successful Jumanji reboot from a couple years prior, you’re likely to have a lot of fun with follow-up The Next Level. The sequel reunites the original crew – a quartet of teenagers pulled into the Jumanji videogame – played by the same big-name actors (Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, Jack Black), with a clever, Danny-De-Vito-centric twist.
The choice to crowbar De Vito (and Danny Glover) into the film pays plenty of dividends, with Johnson and Awkwafina’s impressions of the iconic actor proffering many of the laughs absent from its predecessor.
However, the same aspects that underwhelmed me the first time around are still present. Aside from the entertainment found in these charismatic actors doing broad impressions, the film too often misses opportunities for comedy. And the storytelling is schizophrenic, torn between overly schematic character arcs and sloppy subplots. (Why, for example, do we need five minutes of Nick Jonas trying and failing to navigate a tile puzzle? The short answer: we don’t.)
Despite my antipathy towards the film, I can’t deny that Jumanji: The Next Level makes for an accessible and family-friendly slice of holiday entertainment. Just don’t expect any levelling up from the prior film.