If you make a movie with a video game theme, spend $125 million to make it, please be sure you do it with imagination and fun in your heart. If you mess up you get “John Carter,” a big fat chocolate mess. If you do it right you get “Jumanji: The Next Level.”
It helps if director Jake Kasdan returns after directing the successful 2017 “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” That film brought in $962 million at the worldwide box office. Some might call the sequel formulaic and predictable, but so what? People liked the first edition and they will like this version just as much. Why? Because its fun, that’s why.
Not every movie has to have the cosmic importance of “Star Wars.” Sometimes we just like to have the movie sweep us away for two hours of fun and frivolity.
Kasdan also directed several episodes of the comedy TV hit show “The New Girl.” I think that gave him the comic timing he shows in this version of “Jumanji.”
Kasdan also wrote the script. Jeff Pinker helped him as did Jeff Rosenberg, both scriptwriters for the previous version.
The great cast returns from “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” with a few additions. Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black and Karen Gillan all return to their previous roles. The kicker for the audience comes when the three of them must imitate the mannerisms and expressions of different characters. In the story, people in our world get transferred to “Jumanji,” a world inside a video game (ignore how that sounds and just go with it.) The famous actors play characters in the game. At different times the characters are inhabited by different actual humans. At that point, their language, both speech and body language, change. It is a hoot to see The Rock channeling Danny DeVito.
Kevin Hart, Ashley Scott, and New Yorker Awkwafina all have roles, Hart as a major player. He has Danny Glover inside of him for most of the movie.
Movie fans will recognize Rory McCann from his role in “Game of Thrones” as The Hound. In a tiny cameo Lamorne Morris has a brief appearance. He had a continuing role on “The New Girl.”
This very pleasing, well-done bit of cotton candy for the soul runs for two hours and three minutes. With a well deserved three and a half saw blades it can be enjoyed by teens or adults. The PG-13 rating excludes younger children, in this case for bad language.