Jumanji: The Next Level is a body-swapping delight

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When Sony first rebooted Jumanji two years ago with the decades-later, new-cast follow-up Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle. It was a pleasant surprise even in the long shadow of Star Wars. It was pretty good for a movie nobody was clamoring for.

For a movie base on a book about a board game. Welcome to the Jungle find a good premise.

Four teenagers of varying social positions would force to inhabit the bodies of avatars that looked suspiciously like. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan. The stars, then, would also force to inhabit the teenagers. Dwayne Johnson would improbably play an insecure nerd. Kevin Hart a strapping athlete frustrated by his newly diminutive frame. Jack Black a popular queen bee type aghast to find herself as a middle-aged man. Karen Gillan an awkward girl shocked by her newfound action-heroine coordination. It was a perfectly time gambit, coinciding with the downfall of the broadly popular Hollywood comedy. Welcome to the Jungle may have looked like a high-concept action-adventure, but it was really offering star-driven laughs.

The new follow-up Jumanji: The Next Level isn’t as conceptually inspired — few sequels are but it definitely understands that the new. 

Jumanji movies are, at their heart, body-swap comedies. The teenage characters, back in their normal forms. Separated for their first semester at college and are reuniting for holiday break. Spencer (Alex Wolff), pining for his time in Dwayne Johnson’s super-body avatar. Impulsively heed the call of the broke video game console and gets suck back into the world of Jumanji. Once his friend realize what’s happen, they set out to rescue him.

But director and co-writer Jake Kasdan doesn’t stick them all back in the same bodies.

Martha (Morgan Turner) once again takes the form of Karen Gillan’s Lara Croft-ish badass. But Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) is now Jack Black’s tweedy map-reader. While Johnson and Hart are “play” by Spencer’s Grandpa Eddie (Danny DeVito). And his former best friend Milo (Danny Glover), respectively, who have also been sucked into the digital world. Johnson does a game (if not exactly spot-on) imitation of DeVito’s rasp. While Hart does a (quite spot-on) imitation of Danny Glover’s gentility. That’s just the setup; the movie goes further into body-swap territory and introduces Awkwafina as another gaming avatar, among other complications.

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