Jumanji: The Next Level

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Sony Pictures;
Adventure Comedy;
Box Office $316.83 million;
$30.99 DVD, $38.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for adventure action, suggestive content and some language.
Stars Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Awkwafina, Alex Wolff, Morgan Turner, Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman, Danny Glover, Danny DeVito, Colin Hanks, Rhys Darby, Rory McCann.

The creative team behind 2017’s surprise blockbuster Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle returns to deliver a worthy sequel that is just as entertaining as its predecessor.

The new story provides a mostly familiar setting with enough new elements to freshen up the formula a bit without straying too far from what audiences came to love about the previous film.

In the new film, the teenagers who beat the game before have drifted apart a bit as they head off to college, where Spencer (AlexWolff) begins to feel out of place in the world. When he returns home for the holidays to find his grandfather (Danny DeVito) staying in his old room, he yearns to once again become the hero of the video game, which, it turns out, he salvaged from the garbage heap the group left it in at the end of the previous movie.

When his friends come looking for him and discover he re-entered the game, they follow him in to help bring him out, thinking it should be too hard considering they already beat the game and will know what to expect. This time, though, they inadvertently bring bystanders into the game, resulting in many of the players not having the same avatars they had the last time, giving the actors plenty of chances to play each other. As an added complication, the game’s story has changed, with the characters’ abilities shifting to match.

As a result, the audience knows just enough about the rules of the game to have fun anticipating what will come next, while the particulars are just different enough to keep viewers guessing. Like before, a huge part of the film’s charm is the way it spoofs both video games and Indiana Jones-type adventure serials, only this time around the audience’s pre-existing affection for the characters makes watching them take advantage of their experience of having played before all the more satisfying.

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The film also smartly takes the adventure out of the jungle for the most part, changing the scenery to deserts and frozen mountains, which at least gives the film a new visual flair to play with. And there’s also a nice little lesson about friendship and teamwork.

In pushing out two movies, though, the filmmakers have probably milked as much from the concept as they can, which is why the film sets up another sequel that promises to mix things up a bit and take the franchise back to the roots of the original 1995 film.

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The home video editions of the film come with a ton of extras that play on the winning chemistry of the cast. Many of these come in the form of promotional videos, such as the minute-long “Grow Up,” in which Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart learn how to impersonate Dannys DeVito and Glover. “Trick or Treat” features Hart arriving at Johnson’s house at Halloween dressed in The Rock’s sweater and fanny pack from an infamous 1990s photo. Other videos put the cast in a telenovela and tease Awkwafina’s thieving skills. But the most intriguing might be the three-minute “NPC Confessions: Jurgen the Brutal,” an in-depth analysis with candid insights of the film’s new villain, played by Rory McCann of “Game of Thrones” fame.

These are accompanied by a five-and-a-half-minute gag reel.

In a throwback to the extras of the previous movie, “Rhys Darby Wants to Jingle” is a two-and-a-half-minute video in which Darby, who plays the game’s narrator and guide, wants to do his own music video to match the one the cast, sans him, did for the previous film.

Three behind-the-scenes featurettes total about 23 minutes and cover the basics from the story creation to the cast dynamics and the visual effects. The Blu-ray and digital editions also include lengthy breakdowns of the ostrich chase and monkey attack sequences, plus VFX pre-vis reels of the zeppelin battle and ostrich chase compared with the final versions of the scenes. These are about five minutes each.

The Blu-ray includes a fold-out map of Jumanji with an interactive AR game.

Digital versions on Vudu also include a “Get in the Game Mode,” which uses on-screen graphics that pop up as the movie plays to offer such information as trivia, statistics and character power levels during fights. This provides an added bit of fun to the video game spoof aspect of the film.