Arts & Leisure

“Jumanji: Next Level” is still a thrill

“JUMANJI: The Next Level” is almost as fun as the first one.

By Jim Tortolano

Sequels often resemble warmed-up leftovers: you already know something about them, but they may not be that tasty the second time around.

Happily, “Jumanji: The Next Level” has not grown stale in comparison with the original. While it brings back many of the fun elements of the first, it introduces some intriguing new elements which make it savory.

If you’ve seen the first iteration of this film series (it’s certain to have at least one more successor), you know the basics: middle-school kids get magically pulled into an old-school video game. But they are transformed into avatars – characters – that don’t quite fit with their real personalities and appearances.

Just why our heroes get back into the game this time is never clearly explained, but, hey, it’s fantasy, so just go with it.

In this version, the basics apply: to progress – or survive – you have to solve puzzles, escape pursuers and battle bad guys. The ensemble cast of Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillian, Jack Black, Madison Iseman and Kevin Hart from the last movie are joined by Danny Glover and Danny DeVito, who bring an added pathos and depth to the game.

Written and directed by Jake Kasdan, this “Jumanji” remains great eye candy, especially in a mind-bending scene in the middle reminiscent of the meandering staircases in the “Hogwarts” tales.

On a weekend when “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” may be sucking all the oxygen out of the box office air, this movie is a welcome respite from the sometime over-serious (and endless) George Lucas epics.

“Jumanji: The Next Level” is rated PG-13 for fantasy danger and violence.

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