Tag Archive: Jake Kasdan


Review by C.J. Bunce

In brief, it’s the best adventure, fantasy, and comedy in theaters in 2019 and a great way to begin your new year.  Jumanji: The Next Level is still packing-in theaters a little more than two weeks into its run–an alternative to the other holiday releases and guaranteed to leave you smiling at the end.  The four stars didn’t miss a beat in their return, swapping roles and adding new laughs, and the new characters inside and outside the game are perfectly matched to tell a new tale.  Two films down and Jumanji: The Next Level is now the new major adventure fantasy franchise, up there with Tarzan, The Jungle Book, Conan the Barbarian, John Carter of Mars, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Mummy, and Indiana Jones.  Put this sequel at the top of the best of those franchises.

The studio didn’t hold back on new action sequences–inside the movie again Jumanji is the same video game of curious origin.  The new levels introduced this time increase the stakes in bigger and better ways.   A bridge-crossing scene with swarming apes and a geometric, Mario Brothers/Donkey Kong-like element is now going to be the adventure film standard to try to beat.  Sure, there are throwbacks to jungle adventures of the past, but it’s not derivative, all presented in fresh ways.  As another tour inside a video game (like Tron and Ready Player One), you’ll have the added fun of spotting video game influences (like Pitfall and Q-Bert), including a new, more difficult gauntlet.

The movie does double duty as an epic quest and rollicking comedy.  Comedians turned comedic actors Jack Black as Dr. Shelly Oberon and Kevin Hart as Mouse Finbar again are comedy gold.  Even the small bits are a scream–Hart riding and getting off a camel is a lesson in physical comedy.  They make the movie loads of fun, but straight man roles performed by Dwayne Johnson and Karen Gillan as in-game characters Dr. Smolder Bravestone and Ruby Roundhouse share the credit for the laughs, too.  If you’ve seen Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, you’d expect big comedy from the sequel.  And that’s where the writing genius comes into play, thanks to a script by writer/director Jake Kasdan and writers Jeff Pinkner, and Scott Rosenberg.  How do you bring back the hour movie stars, the four young actors who played the original players (Madison Iseman, Morgan Turner, Alex Wolff, and Ser’Darius Blain), the rescued Alex played by Colin Hanks, and in-game characters played by Nick Jonas, and Rhys Darby without re-hashing the first movie?  You’ll have to see it to find out.  Just be prepared for some great twists and surprises.

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The first big Jumanji movie (we’re ignoring the 1990s version), Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, was such a brilliant, laugh-out-loud, adventure and rollercoaster ride, it made the freezing winter two years ago a bit more tolerable.  With a Halloween snowfall across the U.S. and a likely colder winter again, the sequel, Jumanji: The Next Level, may just save us again from the winter blues.  Directly competing against the final Star Wars film, The Rise of Skywalker, the real competition isn’t going to be about seeing them once, but it will be about which you go back to again.  Now with two trailers out following the first trailer four months ago (if you missed it, watch it here), Jumanji: The Next Level appears to have everything that made us laugh the first time–and more.

In the previous film teenagers get sucked into a video game and emerge in the roles of Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Franklin “Mouse-not-Moose” Finbar (Kevin Hart in his funniest performance ever), Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), and Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black).  In the second trailer we see that returning director Jake Kasdan and writers Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg have shuffled the roles, swapping in one of the kid’s grandfather, played by Danny DeVito, and his friend, played by Danny Glover.  The next adventure brings back Nigel (Rhys Darby) as gamerunner and somehow Nick Jonas is back, too, as long-time player Alex–or will Alex really be someone entirely new?  They could change up all these character roles over and over and we’ll keep coming back for more.

And there’s a new poster:

What’s funnier, Bethany’s new character or a stack of great Kevin Hart jokes?  Here’s the next, and final, trailer for Jumanji: The Next Level:

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So how do you change the innerworkings of a game-based movie that was such a breakout comedy without gutting the heart of the film that made it all work so well?  Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle as a reboot was such an improvement over the original film Jumanji from 1995 that it really took audiences by surprise in those late 2017 cold winter months (check out our review here).  In the previous film teenagers get sucked into a video game and emerge into the roles of Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Franklin “Moose” Finbar (Kevin Hart in his funniest performance ever), Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), and Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black playing his trademark Jack Black routine).  So will returning director Jake Kasdan and writers Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg give us a whole new game or take another approach for the next?

The first trailer for Jumanji: The Next Level might have the most apt of titles.  The inside-the-game characters are the same (phew!), but the video game won’t be the same, instead giving the characters and us–the audience–a new level of play.  And the real-world players are moved around a bit, with some new twists.  All the kids are back, but Spencer’s grandfather, played by Danny DeVito, and his friend, played by Danny Glover, get sucked into the game with Spencer lost somewhere, and Martha stuck with Fridge trying to find him.  Martha is still Ruby/Gillan, but everyone else is different: DeVito is Smolder/Johnson, Glover is Moose/Hart, and Fridge is Shelly/Black.  So the swap of kids for old men in the bodies of our lead actors is the new conceit.

The next adventure brings back Nigel (Rhys Darby) as gamerunner and somehow Nick Jonas is back, too, as long-time player Alex–or will Alex really be someone entirely new?  They could change up all these character roles over and over and we’ll keep coming back for more.

Here’s the great first trailer for Jumanji: The Next Level:

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Sony has already released a few teasers for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, but they didn’t offer much to describe the film or give moviegoers a reason to buy a ticket.  That is, until the latest trailer dropped, which is attached to the previews to this weekend’s premiere of Spider-man: Homecoming.  This trailer netted a full house of laughs, and supports star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s personal buzz he’s been generating for the film over the past year.

Emerging from the world created by author Chris Van Allsburg (Jumanji, Polar Express, Zathura: A Space Adventure) and (happily) not having any real ties to the 1995 movie starring Robin Williams, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a new Jumanji adventure.  The film begins with four high schoolers who get stuck cleaning a storage room at school and find an old video game.  Their initial selections of the game and in-game characters dictate their roles in the film as they are sucked Tron-style into the game, emerging as adults played by The Rock (Doc Savage, Black Adam), Karen Gillan (Doctor Who, Guardians of the Galaxy), Kevin Hart (Central Intelligence, The Wedding Ringer), and Jack Black (King Kong, Kung Fu Panda, School of Rock).  The new trailer includes some great footage of Gillan finally getting lead actress screentime as a badass, Lara Croft-inspired heroine.  And we also learn that, as promised by Gillan in earlier interviews, her outfit makes perfect sense for the role.

The film is directed by Jake Kasdan, known for his television work as producer/director on New Girl and Freaks and Geeks, but also for the great coming of age movie Orange County, starring Colin Hanks and Jack BlackThe script for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is from a dream team of TV and movie writers: Chris McKenna (Spider-man: Homecoming, The LEGO Batman Movie,  Community, Igor), Jeff Pinkner (The Dark Tower, ROM, M.A.S.K.: Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, The Amazing Spider-man 2, Fringe, Lost, Early Edition), Scott Rosenburg (High Fidelity, Impostor, Life on Mars (U.S.)), and Erik Sommers (Spider-man: Homecoming, The LEGO Batman Movie,  Community).

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