Quick Reviews: 'Jumanji: The Next Level', '21 Bridges' | Adventure Comedy Sequel, Chadwick Boseman
JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL
I actually only very recently watched the 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle, even liking the cast I had just put off watching it for some reason. Now with the release calendar cleared I ended up watching it and having quite a pleasant time. It wasn’t amazing but it was fun so I was kind of expecting the same about Jumanji: The Next Level, once again directed and co-written by Jake Kasdan, and I found it to be a slight improvement, taking advantage of a bigger budget and leaning more into the video game aspect with changing sceneries.
Just like with the first one, the cast overall makes this one also a really fun experience. Whereas previously Kevin Hart (Mouse) was just playing a Kevin Hart role, now he gets to really act against type and his take on Danny Glover's character Milo is scary good. Karen Gillan (Ruby) doesn’t really get to change her avatar but takes the most out of her action stuff once again. Jack Black as Shelly is a hoot whenever he’s supposed to be Bethany (played by Madison Iseman) but he also does fine as Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) and as Martha (Morgan Turner). Newest cast member Awkwafina (Ming) plays both Spencer (Alex Wolff) and Eddie (Danny DeVito) incredibly well and is even at some points underutilised.
There’s a great sequence that happens on rope bridges where most of the main cast is involved and it’s purely some of the most fun action of the year. Also Dr. Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) teaches Eddie to smoulder which DeVito hilariously does at the end, just wanted to point that out specifically.
The movie cheats fairly much in the beginning with the way it throws Spencer into the Jumanji game. It felt very cheap since it is the only reason why everyone ends up in it and it’s also never properly addressed later on. And while for most of the film you forget it since the real pleasure comes from their attempts to survive, it does leave a bad taste in mouth after. Other than that The Next Level doesn’t do a poor job anywhere, there are mostly things that felt rushed to meet deadlines so they weren’t fully realised. A horse as a video game character was unnecessary and comes off as a money saver and plot device. Especially in the end, what are the real life consequences for it (avoiding spoilers here)? Can we get a villain who’s the final boss and not a henchman? And can Jumanji recast Fridge since Blain is distractingly too old and his scenes with the youngsters feel off? Buy a DLC to find out.
Smileys: Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Jack Black
Frowneys: Premise, Ser’Darius Blain
It’s just great that there are still some fun movies that are self-aware *smoulders like Dwayne Johnson*.
When a movie is called 21 Bridges and there’s only 30 seconds of drone footage about closing them, you’d think that there might’ve been a better title for it. Well that is perhaps beside the point but maybe that could be parallel for the whole thing as there’s quite a bit left on the table here. For a crime thriller it’s not all that suspenseful and for a mystery drama there’s not enough twists and turns.
The cast is fairly exciting on the page, featuring the likes of Chadwick Boseman as Andre Davis, J.K. Simmons as Captain McKenna, Stephan James as Michael and Taylor Kitsch as Ray. All of them do a great job with what they’re given and under the guidance of director Brian Kirk, the highlight being James who’s playing Michael as a good guy in a bad job really convincingly. The gun fights, which there are many, are shot and choreographed pretty well. Technically everything from directing to cinematography to dialogue is just enough above the network cop shows’ level but clearly not up to the level of cop thrillers of recent times.
21 Bridges has major pacing issues as the scenes noticeably drag for too long, the transitions are either extremely short or stalling for a bigger runtime and between dialogue there are awkward pauses where the actors don’t even seem to be reacting to anything. It almost makes you yell at the screen to move on multiple times. Much of the action is happening on the streets which unfortunately means in this case that the set designs are bland. There’s a bar that has nothing implicating that it is one, the lair of this rich, technological wizard is basically a room with a gaming PC and there’s a butcher shop from every comic book ever made. Everything about the film just needed more intrigue.
Smileys: Stephan James, Chadwick Boseman
Frowneys: Pacing, set decoration, locations
Sorry to talk about the name again but hey, you could’ve at least had the big final scene at a bridge. Any one of the 21 of them.