Jumanji: The Next Level begins the year after the high school students from Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle had graduated. In college, Spencer (Alex Wolff) had felt apart from the group. They all were getting on with their lives and he felt inadequate. It’s winter vacation and they all head home. Unwillingly, Ashley (Ashley Scott), Bethany (Madison Iseman), and Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) get pulled back into the game to start a new adventure.
In real life, Spencer’s grandpa Eddie Gilpin, (Danny DeVito) is complaining about the aches and pains of old age. He’s visited by his old restaurateur partner Milo Walker (Danny Glover). They land in the jungle wondering whether they were in Florida or had died. Milo gradually learns to appreciate computer games. Getting old doesn’t seem so bad when you’re about to die. Being in a young body helps too!
The movie reprises the characters within the game. We meet Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Professor Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black), Mouse Finbar (Kevin Hart), and Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). Other characters from the prior film include Seaplane McDonough (Nick Jonas) and the guide Nigel Billingsley (Rhys Darby) The expanded game adds a new player, the thief Ming Fleetfoot, played by Awkwafina. The assignment of characters to players was shuffled, to the chagrin of Fridge and Ashley.
Once they’re in the game, all of them get swept along. The experienced characters teach Eddie and Milo how the game works. Each adventure is thoroughly infused with fun. As the players get used to the new levels, they grow into their roles in the game as well as within themselves. By the last challenge, the characters are truly enjoying using their strengths.
The movie had a lot of humor. Perhaps the nerdiest joke was when Dwayne Johnson threw a character in anger and a rock fell on him. Cake too.
I really recommend the movie. It didn’t have the hackneyed theme of saving the world from existential threats like Avengers: End Game and Terminator: Dark Fate. Thank goodness!