“Where is he?” says co-ed Martha. “I think Spencer went back in, and we gotta go get him!” But friend Fridge says, “Are you out of your mind?” “You know,” Martha counters, “he’d do it for us.” She fears Spencer has re-entered the “Jumanji” video game where, two years earlier, the three high-school friends almost lost their lives. That’s the setup for this sequel — “Jumanji: The Next Level” — non-stop action adventure in which young friends re-enter to rescue one of their own and escape alive.
Do you play video games? (I don’t.) Will you have as much fun watching Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan and Jack Black as they seem to be having on screen? (Maybe.) Should you see “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” (2017) first? (I should have.)
Four actors who played video-game characters in 2017 return for the sequel: Dwayne Johnson is Dr. Smoulder Bravestone, Karen Gillan returns as biologist Ruby Roundhouse, Kevin Hart is zoologist Frankling Finbar (aka Moose and Mouse), and Jack Black is Professor Shelly Oberon. They’re amusing to watch as they reveal the human characters who inhabit them. Johnson has fun revealing grumpy old Eddie (Danny DeVito), Spencer’s grandfather. “Getting old sucks,” Eddie says, “don’t let anyone tell you different.” Hart reveals Danny Glover’s character, Milo, Eddie’s one-time, cantankerous and difficult business partner. Bookish and socially anxious co-ed Martha inhabits Karen Gillan’s Roundhouse, and Jack Black’s Professor Oberon reveals football player Fridge. Awkafina is video character Ming, a new avatar in the video game.
Others in the cast include Alex Wolff as Spencer, Ser’Darius Blain as Spencer’s best friend, Fridge, Morgan Turner as Martha, and Madison Iseman as Bethany, who re-enters the video game late in the action. Nick Jonas and Colin Hanks share the role of Alex. Rory McCann is bad guy, Jurgen the Brutal.
Jake Kasdan directed and co-wrote this sequel to Kasdan’s 2017 “Welcome to the Jungle,” which was a massive hit, earning $962 million worldwide, but “Jumanji” began in a 1995 movie as a board game. Now, as Martha reminds us, “We’re in a video game.” Each character has three lives and, by the end of the film, all have only one life left. Do we care? I didn’t — much — because only grumpy Eddie and former friend Milo have backstories and scenes in which they show some heart. Otherwise, it’s special-effects, killer ostriches and mandrills all over the screen.
Rated PG-13 for adventure action, suggestive content and language, “The Next Level” runs 123 minutes, non-stop special effects. I was exhausted.
“Jumanji: The Next Level”:
Action is what it’s all about;
Non-stop stunts are daredevil —
Quite enough to wear me out.