A Brief History
On December 13, 2019 (Friday the 13th for those that keep track of such things), we have the good fortune of the widespread release of the latest movie in the Jumanji franchise, Jumanji: The Next Level. The Jumanji saga started with a book by Chris Van Allsburg in 1981, and hit the big screen in 1995 with a film starring Robin Williams. The franchise got a major boost with the 2017 film, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the success of which guaranteed this latest sequel.
The first Jumanji movie had a budget of $65 million and earned a box office of $262 million, an indication of how well the colorful and action oriented movie was received by audiences. The next film, this time starring Duane “The Rock” Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Alex Wolf, Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman, Morgan Turner and Bobby Cannavale hit the screen in 2017 with a big budget of as much as $150 million, offering incredible special effects and showy cinematography. Pulling in an incredible $962 million at the box office, the film was hilarious, and action packed. Featuring the idea that real people somehow entered a video game and were represented by avatars unlike their real life selves gave the movie a unique dynamic, though one previously explored in other body switching films such as The Hot Chick, Freaky Friday and the like.
This time around we find our group of college aged buddies joined by the grandfather of Spencer (Alex Wolf) played by Danny DeVito and Grandpa’s old buddy and business partner, played by Danny Glover. Throwing 2 old guys into a video game as youthful avatars provides a whole new dynamic for the development of comic situations. Also added to the cast is Awkwafina, who plays a perpetually startled looking character of incredible vitality. We even get a horse as one of the avatars! There is a strong sense of continuity with the previous film (Welcome to the Jungle) which makes sense when you find out the director, Jake Kasdan, is the same for both films.
As with the previous movie, the casting is incredibly good. The actors work well together and create a comedic atmosphere of considerable depth. Adding Danny DeVito and Danny Glover was a masterful stroke, as the old guy element is one some of us can relate to…
Special effects are remarkable, and they are plentiful at that. Spoiler Alert: Ostriches are apparently larger and much more aggressive than we ever imagined! The Next Level includes lots of fight scenes, so fans of watching people use a variety of weapons and fighting techniques against comically large numbers of opponents should get their full ration of entertainment. The film is colorful and well lit, lots of action, lots of jokes, and a pace that keeps you glued to the screen. (Mid-credit scene so stick around for it.) There will absolutely be another sequel in this franchise. The sound track is pretty good, too, with songs appropriate for the situation each time.
By the way, we expect comic actors such as Jack Black and Danny DeVito to be funny, but our hats are off to Duane “The Rock” Johnson, who has developed into one of the best comic actors in the business. The guy is so likable! His expressions are even made fun of in the film itself. That is how funny they are!
Jumanji: The Next Level is rated “PG-13” for the nearly constant violence, but there is little in the way of realistic gore, so we think even young children will enjoy the film without adverse effects. Little kids that are easily frightened by dangerous situations and violence may be kept at home, but the vast majority of kids will love this film, as will the vast majority of adults. Rotten Tomatoes, the aggregate critics site, gives the movie only a 68% approval rating from critics, but audiences give it a more realistic 89% approval rating, as we would expect. As always, we find audiences are better judges of films than critics (except us!), so trust your fellow movie goers.
Jumanji: The Next Level is a fast paced action science fiction comedy that incorporates the modern aspect of video games. Lots of eye candy, action, and comedy, so we heartily recommend the movie for almost all audiences (except perhaps old grumps). We predict you will be left eagerly awaiting the next edition in this film franchise.
Question for students (and subscribers): What other films can you name that included real people getting trapped in a video game? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Van Allsburg, Chris. Jumanji. Scholastic Book Services, 1981.
Van Allsburg, Chris. Zathura. Houghton Mifflin, 2002.
The featured image in this article, a scaled-down, low-resolution image of a poster for Jumanji: The Next Level, is used in an article that provides critical commentary on the film in question on a website used primarily for educational purposes, hosted on servers in the United States, per fair use under the copyright law of the United States.