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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jumanji: The Next Level is the sequel to 2017's hit Jumanji reboot. Stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan all return. And Danny DeVito and Danny Glover are added to the mix this time for some multigenerational humor as Spencer (Alex Wolff) and his motley crew of friends are sucked back into the perilous Jumanji video game for another high-stakes adventure. Not everyone lands in the avatar they originally inhabited, and the two seniors end up in the muscular bodies of Johnson's and Hart's video game characters. Violence remains a little dark, with the game characters dying in various ways, including animal attacks, being struck with poisoned darts, falling to death, and being blown up -- all of which ends up leaving many in a risky one-life-left state. But sensitive viewers should know the end is just as satisfying here as it is in the previous movie, and there are clear themes of teamwork, communication, empathy, and courage. You can also expect a fair bit of swearing (mostly "goddamn" and "holy s--t"), as well as a couple of references to bodies and body parts -- but not nearly as many as in the previous movie. There's less flirting and sexual tension in this installment in general, although there are still a few kisses and some general "smoldering" by Bravestone. A little bit of background drinking is seen.
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What's the story?
JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL takes place the year following the events of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Spencer (Alex Wolff), Martha (Morgan Turner), Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain), and Bethany (Madison Iseman) are either in college or on gap years. When Spencer comes home for the holidays, he's supposed to hang out with his Grandpa Eddie (Danny DeVito), who has moved in temporarily while recovering from hip surgery. On the day the Jumanji survivors are supposed to meet up for breakfast, Spencer is conspicuously missing, so the friends head to his house, where they discover the still-broken Jumanji video game in his basement. They figure that's where he is and decide to follow. But something goes awry, and both Eddie and his estranged best friend, Milo (Danny Glover), are transported into the game, too. They end up as Dr. Bravestone (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) and Mouse Finbar (Kevin Hart), while Fridge is Professor Oberon (Jack Black), and Bethany is left behind altogether. Martha, at least, is still Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). The reconstituted team must find Spencer and also play the game while accompanied by two seniors who are having trouble reconciling their circumstances -- not to mention their new muscular bodies.
Is it any good?
The return of the likable core cast and the addition of DeVito, Glover, and Awkwafina make this sequel an entertaining twist on the original -- and surprisingly funnier than expected. Hart is quite amusing while speaking in Glover's slower, more deliberate cadence, and even though The Rock's DeVito impersonation isn't always spot on, the gimmick works enough of the time to garner laughs throughout the film. Gillan carries most of the story as Martha/Ruby, who must be steadfast as everyone, including Fridge (in the unathletic avatar of Oberon), acts confused or frustrated. The game aspect isn't as compelling here as the characterizations, because audiences familiar with the first movie know that all will be well, despite the various fight sequences, killer animals, and puzzles to survive.
If the first movie was about four high schoolers from different social groups becoming friends, the second one is about two former best pals/business partners (Glover and DeVito) getting one last chance to reclaim their friendship. Sure, there are angry ostriches, mandrills, and homicidal warriors thrown into the mix -- and even a couple of jump-worthy moments. But, at its heart, this franchise is about finding your tribe, your people, your team: the unconditional friends who can help you overcome the toughest odds and the most perilous situations.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Jumanji: The Next Level. Did it change the impact knowing that the characters were inside a game? What about the idea that dying repeatedly could force characters to die in real life as well?
Talk about how the cast of Jumanji: The Next Level must use teamwork, communication, empathy, and courage to conquer each level of the game and ultimately succeed in their mission? Why are those character strengths so important in the game, the movie, and in real life?
Although Ruby Roundhouse is still in her crop-top and short-shorts outfit, there's less of a focus this time on her sex appeal and more on her strength and abilities. What do you think of the change in perspective for the character? Why do you think so many video games feature "sexy" characters/avatars?
Discuss the intergenerational humor in the story. What did the grandpa-age men learn from the college-age teens, and what did the kids learn from the seniors?
- In theaters: December 13, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: March 17, 2020
- Cast: Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson
- Director: Jake Kasdan
- Studio: Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Wild Animals
- Character strengths: Communication, Courage, Empathy, Teamwork
- Run time: 123 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: adventure action, suggestive content and some language
- Last updated: April 7, 2020
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