Back during the 2017 holidays, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was a surprise, near-billion-dollar hit. So, naturally, a sequel (three-quel, technically) was immediately rushed into development. That movie, Jumanji: The Next Level, is scheduled for the 2019 holiday season, obviously hoping to repeat the fortunes of its predecessor. The first trailer has dropped for Jumanji 2 or 3, Depends How You Count, and I have to say, I do not thrill to this the way I did to the trailers for Welcome to the Jungle. I bet this new Jumanji gets bit by the sequelitis bug plaguing the box office this year.
The cast of the last movie returns, along with the major additions of Danny DeVito, Danny Glover, and Awkwafina, who is only momentarily glimpsed in the trailer. I realize that DeVito and Glover are legends, but Awkwafina is having a real moment and I guarantee the younger demographics are more likely to recognize her than DeVito and Glover. Not sure why this trailer is skimping so hard on Awkwafina and Nick Jonas. The holiday movie season is skewed towards families, and if you want to convince the young’uns to go along with this, you probably need to give them a little more to go on.
I’m also not as enamored of the player situation in this “next level”. A HUGE part of Jumanji’s appeal was The Rock playing against type as a nervous teen, and Jack Black’s genuinely great turn as a pampered teen girl. But in this new game, Bethany, the teen girl, is missing, and Jack Black houses “Fridge”, the overgrown jock. The Rock is inhabited by DeVito, and Kevin Hart is Danny Glover (and is doing a Danny Glover impression I bet gets old REAL FAST). The appeal is just not the same. Jumanji has surprising heart, stemming from how the in-game versions of the “real” teens force the kids out of their assigned stereotypes and allow them to become real to one another, as people.
Maybe the same can happen here, but “an old guy is The Rock” now seems more like a vehicle for age jokes—which are prevalent in the trailer—than anything else. Never forget how fast they pushed this movie out, and that the first things sacrificed in the name of expediency are usually depth and nuance. And audiences are being VERY fickle this year, so the success of the previous movie is nothing to count on. Sequels are having a rough go of it, and if a movie doesn’t look special enough, audiences just aren’t turning out for it. Does Jumanji: The Next Level look special to you?