Written by Michael Cole
Two years ago when Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was about to come out, I was one of the only people I knew that was actually excited to see it. I even wrote an article about it here on World’s Best Media, what I wanted to see. One of the things that I talked about wanting, was world building. Welcome to the Jungle brought us into the world of Jumanji in a way that they weren’t able to do in 1995 when the Robin Williams version was made. It was awesome, and I genuinely loved the film.
The latest entry in the series, Jumanji: The Next Level delivers on the world building aspects. We’re no longer confined to just a traditional jungle environment, but get to see the desert, and a snow covered jungle, and with new levels, we get different animals than the previous film. This is now fully realized, and I suspect I know how the next film is going to go, but we’ll get to that in a little bit.
* SPOILER ALERT! For The Rest Of This Article*
One of the cool things of Welcome to the Jungle, was that our four main characters, are avatars of teenagers, and it allows for some strong character moments, as well as comedic fodder. Jack Black was a teenage girl, Dwayne Johnson was a skittish nerdy kid, Karen Gillan was a nerdy girl, and Kevin Hart was a black jock. In this film, in order to keep everything fresh, they scramble the characters and introduce some new ones. This time, Johnson is playing Danny Devito, Kevin Hart is Danny Glover, Jack Black is now the jock, and Spencer , who had the Dwayne Johnson avatar in the last game, is now Awkwafina who is a new playable character.
Eventually once they’ve done the necessary character work, they find a way to switch all the characters back into the previous avatars, with Danny Glover becoming a horse, and Danny Devito transferring into Awkwafina.
Since the avatar actors playing multiple characters (mostly) is such a big part of the film let’s talk about it. Personally, I think Welcome to the Jungle’s character assignments were perfect, but I understand that they wanted to do some work with it this time. Kevin Hart is great as both of his characters, handling Danny Glover’s character just as well as the jock character. Also Awkwafina is amazing as both characters; she handles being a nerdy teenage boy with perfection, and I think her Danny Devito is great. That brings us to Dwayne Johnson, I don’t love his Danny Devito; he has moments that are great, but there’s a lot of moments when the ‘Rock’ persona and Devito persona aren’t blended well; he doesn’t fully get the cadence and accent right, and it’s a bit cartoony. Jack Black as the athlete doesn’t work well for me, it’s not terrible, but Jack Black as the jock handles the character stuff well, but his ‘black voice’ borders on uncomfortable, it’s less about racial issues for me, and more about his voice falling into the uncanny valley, of being close enough to not be offensive, but far enough where it’s awkward.
I think that the character work, and set pieces really overcome all of the shortcomings in the performances. I won’t tell you much about the actual plot, I wouldn’t do it much justice, but the film is well paced, and really enjoyable. I’ll just say, as you should already know, is that our characters win, and escape Jumanji. So let’s talk about easter eggs, and where I think the next installment is going.
In the previous film, the characters find tree a house with a carving that says: “Alan Parrish was here”. Which is an homage to Robin Williams and the first Jumanji movie. And I amThe Next Level, talks about a restaurant called Nora’s several times throughout the film, and eventually once everything is back to normal we discover that Nora was the Bebe Neuwirth character from the original, and in the end we see her hiring Danny Devito. I suspect that she’ll have some part to play in the next film, and will not just be a cameo.
As our heroes, recently returned to their own bodies outside of the game go to Nora’s to grab a meal and celebrate their victory, we cut back to the video game console, in the teenage boy’s basement as a heating repairman goes to touch it, and we hear the drumbeats that signal the game is coming, and cut to the main street where Nora’s is, and a pack of Ostriches comes rampaging down the street, the characters see them, and we cut to the credits.
Now, when I say I think I know where this is going, it’s probably pretty obvious, and I’m not making any bold predictions, but I think we’re going to get to see a setting more similar to the original film, (although I suspect the effects and scale will be drastically expanded), and we’ll have to see the characters working with the avatars who have stepped out of the game into their world. This will allow for a third set of avatar characters, the ones that the game originally intends for them, and by bringing them into our world, they keep the ‘fish out of water’ theme. I also suspect we may see something of a “Last Action Hero”/Buzz Lightyear style identity crisis within the characters in which they realize their reality isn’t actual reality.
Personally, after the previous two films, I’m 100% down for whatever comes next.
Overall grade: B+