By Laurie Coker

Rating: C+/B-

Welcome to Jumanji a game where anything can happen and it does in the latest film starring Dwyane Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, and Jack Black. Our avatar heroes return, joined by others in this unnecessary sequel to the 2017 reboot of the original Jumanji starring Robin Williams.  Like its predecessor, Jumanji: The Next Level is full of video gaming action and crazy shenanigans. One might ask why? The simple answer – MONEY. ‘Tis the season to take the family to the movies and the box office will brim with those curious fans. The cast, which now includes a few new players, brings on the chuckles.

With the kids now off to college and living extremely different lives, the Jumanji game sits locked in an old briefcase in Spencer’s basement. Home for winter break and feeling detached, Spencer avoids invites to meet up with his friends. After an evening with his grandpa (Devito), he pulls out the shattered gaming console. Discovering his disappearance, Martha, Bethany, and Fridge go into the game after him. Only there are twists, body switches, and new avatars.  Black, Hart, Gillan, and Johnson are in true form and funny, in spite of Johnson’s messy attempt to mimic Devito’s accent.

The decision to include, older characters (Devito and Danny Glover), works well since it brings a wider audience to the second installment. Devito seems to have a blast in the short sequences in which he appears as does Glover, but the real pleasure and amusement are in watching the familiar characters interacting, especially in light of the avatar mix-ups. Director Jake Kasdan has created a genuinely funny film even though it doesn’t measure up to the first. .  In addition to the older characters, actress Awkwafina (Ming) joins the team and she does the Devito accent well.

With the endless flood of gags, awe-inspiring computer-generated action sequences, and the hokey, this is a film has all the attributes necessary to sell tickets – not particularly special, but engaging nonetheless. Jumanji: The Next Level is worth a look if for nothing more than the cast. I may not be as good as the first, but it does entertain. A C+/B- goes into the grade book for this one.

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