Jumanji: The Next Level is a 2019 fantasy, action, and comedic film about four people who were transported into a magical video game. Just like during the first visit, they must figure out how to win in order to return to their ordinary lives.
This is the sequel to Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle which I previously reviewed here and would strongly recommend watching first. The franchise in general is a reboot of the 1996 Jumanji film. It is not necessary to watch the original in order to understand what’s going on here.
I will go into more detail about why I recommend watching Welcome to the Jungle in my review below.
Once again, I’m leaving secondary characters out of this post for spoiler reasons. Please note that this review does contain some spoilers for the first film, so reader beware!
Dr. Xavier Smolder Bravestone was a strong and confident archeologist, explorer, and team leader. He was Eddie’s avatar.
Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Obero was a cartographer, cryptographer, archeologist, and palaeontologist. He was Fridge’s avatar.
Franklin “Mouse” Finbar was a zoologist and weapons carrier. He was Milo’s avatar.
Ruby Roundhouse was a martial artist and fighting dancer. She was Martha’s avatar.
Eddie was the grandfather of Spencer, a character from the first film. He was a pessimistic man who believed his best days were behind him.
Fridge was a college student now. His group of friends wasn’t as close-knit as it used to be, and he struggled with that shift.
Milo was Eddie’s old, dear friend. Despite knowing each other for decades, there was an underlying tension between them that none of the younger characters were cognizant of at first.
Martha was also a college student now. She was as intelligent and cynical as ever, but her new educational environment had caused her to blossom in ways that weren’t possible for her as a shy high schooler a few years ago.
If you’re in the market for a light, fluffy storyline, keep reading.
One of the criticisms I noted about Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was the lack of character development. While it remained pretty shallow, I did enjoy seeing some growth in the two returning protagonists as well as in all four avatars in general . Martha and Fridge had obviously had a chance to grow up a bit since high school. It was interesting to contrast their behaviour to the behaviour of their elders.
Ordinarily, I’d expect senior citizens to be more self-assured and level-headed than people who haven’t even left their teens yet. The fact that all four main characters were thrown into a situation that only the two younger ones knew how to handle made it fascinating to tease out the differences between all of their reactions.
We need more films that include senior citizens as heroes. Having not one but two of them included in this storyline made me curious to see how things would play out for them.
Why should you watch this series in order? The character development is part of it. Most people mature rapidly in their late teens and early 20s. I thought it was cool to see how Fridge and Martha had changed since we last met them. There were also some switch-ups to the cast of main characters that won’t be as meaningful to anyone who wasn’t aware of how things were in Welcome to the Jungle.
In addition to that, some of the plot twists work better for audiences who are already aware of how Jumanji is supposed to be experienced. Let’s just say that Milo and Eddie had a unique approach to winning that is best understood if you have firm expectations of how one should behave in a video game.
By all means watch the original Jumanji, too, if you love this universe, but enough of it was revisited here that I wouldn’t make that mandatory.
There were a couple of sexual jokes that made me roll my eyes. The first instalment in this reboot did a great job of poking fun at the idea that women who play video games are something unusual or that identifying as a woman should affect how you play or what you do with your avatar. I wish that same snarky energy had continued in this sequel. It made this franchise stand out in my mind in a truly refreshing way, and I’d love to recommend future instalments of it to people who love gaming but shy away from the sometimes juvenile and sexist comments people make about women in this hobby. Sometimes the best way to change harmful social scripts like that is by mocking the hell out of them, so here’s hoping we get more of that in the third instalment if or when it happens.
Do you need to be a certain type of gamer, or even a gamer at all, to enjoy this story? Absolutely not. I’m the sort of gamer who generally sticks with sandbox games like Minecraft, and I had no problem keeping up with what was going on. Everything was explained well. Although my spouse who knows more about the topic once again enjoyed a few jokes tucked in there that seemed to be geared towards viewers who are into more strictly structured storytelling.
Jumanji: The Next Level was brain candy in the best sense of that phrase. If you need a fun distraction that doesn’t require any deep thought, this might be right up your alley.
Jumanji: The Next Level is available on Amazon Prime and Apple TV.