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Ruby Roundhouse and company looking on in confusion at an equine Bethany

If this year has proven anything, it’s that reboots are hard and reviving a property with a recognizable name is not a guaranteed recipe for success. That’s what makes 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle such a remarkable feat. The near $1 billion grosser was a massive success, introducing delightful new characters played by a fun cast, while putting a new spin on the Jumanji mythos. Now, for those to seek to find a way to leave their world behind, the game is back with Jumanji: The Next Level.

The sequel film sees the players from the first film sucked back into the game where they will face new challenges and the fate of Jumanji will once again be in their hands. Director Jake Kasdan returns, along with the all-star cast of Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Jack Black. Newcomers Danny DeVito, Danny Glover and Awkwafina join them for an adventure that takes them out of the jungle and to new levels of danger. But does Jumanji: The Next Level take this franchise to the next level?

The first reviews for Jumanji: The Next Level are now up and it seems that the sequel succeeds in the same ways that its predecessor did, while failing to truly distinguish itself. In his 3-star review of The Next Level, CinemaBlend’s Dirk Libbey said:

It still has ‘fun and entertaining’ going for it, but in a way that feels much more familiar and safe, rather than surprising.

So while Dirk enjoyed the characters and the comedy and all the things that worked in the first film, he felt that Jumanji: The Next Level basically operated on the same level. It added a bit here and there while failing to revolutionize things and give audiences something truly new in the way Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle did in relation to the original Jumanji. In a sense, enjoyable, but unremarkable.

This sentiment, that Jumanji: The Next Level was fun but not as special and surprising as Welcome to the Jungle was echoed by Empire’s Ben Travis in his review. He also gave The Next Level three stars out of five and wrote:

It doesn’t have the surprise factor of the last film and sometimes feels rough around the edges, but The Next Level pushes its body-swap antics even further to deliver just as many laughs.

Many of the critics have found that Jumanji: The Next Level has both good and bad on offer and how they weigh those good and bad elements ultimately determines whether or not the scale tips to a positive review or a negative one. For The Hollywood Reporter’s John DeFore, the good outweighs the bad, but the idea is running thin. He wrote:

This installment is a clear case of diminishing returns, but enjoyable action set pieces and a surprise or two near the end should keep parental grousing to a minimum.

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While the action and the humor were enough for some critics, for others Jumanji: The Next Level was a game not worth playing. Slash Film’s Josh Spiegel gave the sequel a five out of 10 and while acknowledging that The Next Level isn’t boring, he said:

The Next Level is otherwise sweaty in its attempts to make its real-world characters and their choices remotely compelling, and their video-game exploits exciting. If there’s a third movie, they should figure out the story to start.

Although some critics found Jumanji: The Next Level to be a bit uninspired after Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, others found it to be just different enough to stand as a very good sequel to very good reboot. In his review, Forbes’ Scott Mendelson said of Welcome to the Jungle:

It keeps what worked about the last film and finds new (and ever-changing) ways to switch up the status quo in order to make what could have been a mere rehash feel fresh and unpredictable.

Lastly is IndieWire’s Kate Erbland, who gave Jumanji: The Next Level a “C+.” Although she dinged Jake Kasdan’s film for its lack of originality, she still thought it justified the continued existence of the Jumanji franchise, saying:

It’s a fitting followup, and while not as original as its predecessors, makes a strong claim for the series to keep earning extra lives.

There's a good chance Jumanji will get those extra lives. The film is tracking for a strong opening weekend before the franchise once again faces off with Star Wars next week with the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Fortunately, it looks like Jumanji: The Next Level will benefit from largely positive reviews and potentially good word of mouth. As of now Jumanji: The Next Level sits at 77% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 31 reviews.

Jumanji: The Next Level opens on December 13. Check out our 2020 Release Schedule to see what movies you can look forward to next year.

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