Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)

I wasn’t a big fan of 2017’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” because I found it padded and strained, but this sequel is a significant improvement. This time around, the movie spends less time on the rather uninteresting lead characters and gets right into business instead, dropping the audience back into its imaginative internal world without spinning its wheels. Additionally, Danny DeVito and Danny Glover are welcome additions to the proceedings, providing a spark of life to the series’ wrap-around story (even if their good-humored bickering does admittedly get repetitive after a while). There’s also the benefit of the filmmakers mixing up the movie’s game characters, which gives the cast a chance to relax and have more fun with the concept than they did the first time around, in particular Kevin Hart, whose performance here isn’t quite as loud. Dwayne Johnson is perhaps more muted than usual but even on an off day he’s got charisma for days so it doesn’t really matter, and Awkwafina makes a great late addition who instantly acclimatizes herself to the jovial, loose tone. The episodic plot is perfectly tailored to match the experience of playing a video game, and with its terrific special effects and megawatt cast filled with charming performers, you could do a lot worse than this.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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