Danny DeVito is a national treasure, so his presence alone gives this “Jumanji” sequel a boost.
“Jumanji: The Next Level,” also known as “Jumanji III” to those of us who like numbered sequels, carries on the stories of Bethany (Madison Iseman), Martha (Morgan Turner), Anthony, who goes by nickname Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) and Spencer (Alex Wolff). The four remained friends after the events of the last “Jumanji” and are planning to meet up during their winter college break over the Christmas season.
Spencer, though, has had trouble adjusting to life at college and away from his friends. His long distance relationship with Martha has also been strained. As a result, Spencer decides to take a risk and enter the dangerous Jumanji video game again. When his trio of friends come looking for him, since he didn’t attend their meetup, they also reluctantly try to join him in the game.
This time, though, they end up bringing Spencer’s grandfather Eddie (DeVito) and Eddie’s former business partner Milo (Danny Glover). Once again the protagonists take the form of in game characters Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black), Franklin Finbar (Kevin Hart) and Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), along with a few new allies, and this time they must go on a rescue mission through the dangerous game.
There are two things really working for this movie. First and foremost is the group of four friends. Much of the first film was dedicated to the group getting to know each other and work as a team, but it was kind of difficult to see them really coming together since it was the game avatars shown on screen, rather than the actual characters.
This time around, though, the characters are already friends, they’re a fully formed team and enjoy each others company, so seeing them work together through their avatars goes much better and actually makes for a better experience than the last flick.
Where the movie has the most fun, though, is with its two older characters. When in the game, Eddie takes the avatar of Bravestone while Milo becomes Finbar, and it’s an absolute blast.
Watching Johnson and Hart play crotchety old men who can talk your ear off is consistently funny, producing laugh after laugh. Watching Johnson’s brawny character being a grumpy guy who doesn’t know his own strength while Hart plays an older gentleman who loves to tell stories and inform people who they remind him of is hilarious.
These aspects make the film’s light and breezy, A-to-B story become a fun journey to go on with some entertaining sequences along the way.
Unfortunately, though, the movie does go on much longer than it needs to. The film is easily more than two hours and it really didn’t need to be. Shaving off some time could have been really beneficial for a more compact film for the family.
Overall, “The Next Level” is a simple but fun way to escape the cold winter months. Even though not all the gags work, it is rather funny and it includes some solid entertainment, such as a scene involving dune buggies in the desert. The movie even has some heartwarming moments in the third act. 3.85 out of 5.