Eddie is an aging grandfather who dislikes everything about growing old.
He hates retirement. He hates his lack of mobility. He hates the fact that he’s now living with his daughter — even if it’s temporary following his hip surgery.
He also hates the fact that his college-aged grandson, Spencer, isn’t living life with joy during his younger years. The latter dislikes his direction in life, too.
“This is the best time of your life,” the grandfather tells the grandson. “Pull it together… It’s all downhill from here.”
Both men could use an attitude adjustment. Better yet, they could use a few days living life in a more demanding part of the world — just so they can appreciate what they have.
Would life inside a video game do the trick? Spencer plays the magical Jumanji cartridge game in his basement and gets sucked into an imaginary world of bad guys and dangerous animals. He also gets lost. Eddie, too, gets pulled into the game, and he soon realizes his life back in the real world wasn’t so bad after all.
But will they ever get out?
The film Jumanji: The Next Level (PG-13) opens this weekend, continuing the story from 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, in which four high schoolers — Spencer, Fridge, Martha and Bethany — accidentally get pulled into a video game world and must fight for survival in order to make it back to reality. Each character also is transported into the body of their avatar.
In The Next Level, they’re still friends but are now in college. The plot takes a turn when an insecure Spencer decides he wants to be the tall, muscular hero he was during his previous visit into the video game. Unfortunately for him, his new avatar is a short woman.
Wanting to find their friend, Fridge and Martha then intentionally enter the video game world but accidentally take Eddie (Danny DeVito) and his estranged business partner Milo (Danny Glover) with them. The foursome’s goal is to find Spencer — and also to find a jewel that will allow them to “win” the game and get back to the real world.
The film stars Dwayne Johnson (Moana), Kevin Hart (The Secret Life of Pets series), Karen Gillan (Avengers: Endgame, The Guardians of the Galaxy series) and Jack Black (Nacho Libre) as the four avatars.
Jumanji: The Next Level delivers fun action and several positive messages, but is marred with strong language (including multiple uses of GD) and jokes about the male and female anatomy. Then there’s the not-so-small issue of Gillan’s skimpy clothes. (Welcome to the Junglehad the same problems.)
The new Jumanji franchise may be aimed at tweens and kids, but sadly is not family-friendly.
Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!
(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)
Moderate. The film is filled with video game-like scenes that are intended for laughs, but nevertheless might frighten little ones. A herd of ostriches chases the foursome in the desert and nearly eats them. (Our heroes escape in a jeep.) Eddie’s avatar, the muscular Smolder Bravestone (Johnson), punches dozens of people, sending them flying through the air. Characters often “die” but quickly come back to life. (Each character has three “lives” — just like in a video game.) A bad man named Jurgen the Brutal threatens to cut off peoples’ heads. Mandrills attack our heroes as they try and cross a series of suspension bridges.
Moderate. Like in Welcome to the Jungle, Gillan wears a skimpy midriff-baring outfit — although this time, she gets a new set of clothes for the latter third of the movie. We see two (somewhat passionate) kisses. We hear an uncomfortable joke about eunuchs and the male anatomy, and another joke about bosoms. Trust me: If you bring kids, you’ll be uncomfortable.
Moderate/extreme. H-ll (24), OMG (12), GD (7), d–n (3), a– (2), s–t (2), misuse of “Christ” (1), SOB (1).
Other Positive Elements
It’s obvious that Spencer’s mother loves him — and that she loves her father (Eddie), too. The film continues its predecessor’s critique of cliques. (The four young adults are very different but remain friends.)
The movie’s closing message about reconciliation and family is a good one.
Growing old is a gift: Eddie learns this the hard way, and at the end of the film repents of his bad attitude.
Contentment is the answer: Eddie and Spencer are anything but content when the film opens. By the time the credits role, they correct their errors.
The grass is always greener: Spencer has low self-esteem and wants to be someone else. Eventually, he learns to appreciate who he already was.
Forgiveness brings joy: Eddie and his former partnership Milo are mad at one another for a past misdeed, but eventually are reconciled.
For all its problems,The Next Level tackles a significant issue — self-worth — and it does so by giving everyone new bodies. What if it were literally possible to walk in someone else’s shoes — to feel their emotions and think their thoughts? Just like the movie, we could gain a greater appreciation for who we are.
We are sinful creatures who often crave what we don’t have. Spencer desired a different job, a new body and a new life.
The faith-based film Overcomer covered the same theme earlier this year, and it did so in a family-friendly way. Our self-worth and self-identity are found in Christ (Ephesians 1-2) — and not in our jobs, our families or our hobbies. No matter what happens in life, we are loved by God.
Walmart, Zaxby’s, Uber, Pop-Secret.
The Next Level has plenty of fun moments. Sadly, it contains too much language and edgy jokes to win my endorsement.
1. What is the key to self-worth? What does the Bible say about who you are?
2. Why wasn’t Spencer content?
3. What can the Jumanji series teach us about cliques and friendship?
4. What did Eddie learn about growing old?
Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2 out of 5 stars.
Rated PG-13 for adventure action, suggestive content and some language.