In 2017, JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE became a monster hit. The film grossed an incredible $962.1 million at the global box office. That's quite an achievement, given that JUMANJI was in theatres opposite STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI. Now the two franchises will face off in December once again, as JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL opens in December.
While this sequel features much the same cast as the previous film, some things have changed. Danny DeVito and Danny Glover are now in the mix, for one thing. And while the crew of characters inside the game "Jumanji" return, once again played by the likes of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Karen Gillan, some details… are very different. Let's take a look at the JUMANJI sequel, and see how it bends the concept in new directions.
It seems there’s a whole lot more to Jumanji than a jungle! Since we last saw the four high school kids who were pulled into the video game, their gang has grown apart. Lonely Spencer (Alex Wolff) wishes he could have the security he had back when he was living in a video game. He tries to repair the video game console, but the game is busted, and he is spirited away. When Spencer’s old friends arrive to check up on him, they find the malfunctioning game, and are soon pulled back in, for an adventure that tests them with new terrain, and strange challenges.
JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL opens on December 13; that's the same slot in which the last movie did so well, back in 2017. That's not the only part of the previous recipe for success that has been duplicated here. Director Jake Kasdan and writers Jeff Pinker and Scott Rosenberg are all back for this JUMANJI sequel.
All the stars of JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE are returning, but there are some new additions. The "real world" characters are Fridge, played by Ser’Darius Blain, who you may also recognize from "Charmed," on which he plays Macy Vaughn’s boyfriend, and the shy, introverted Martha, played by the returning Morgan Turner. Alex Wolff is also back as Spencer; youv'e also seen him in HEREDITARY and BAD EDUCATION. And Madison Iseman plays the formerly egocentric teen Bethany; you may know Iseman from ANNABELLE COMES HOME or GOOSEBUMPS 2: HAUNTED HALLOWEEN.
That returning JUMANJI cast is joined by two powerful actors. Danny DeVito has entered the game as Spencer’s grandfather Eddie, while Donald Glover plays Eddie's eccentric friend, Milo. The big twist of the film is that Eddie and Milo are drawn into the game world, along with the younger characters.
All the game cast are back, but some of the avatars have been switched around, to create crazy new comedic possibilities. Dwayne Johnson plays Dr. Smolder Bravestone, the charismatic physical powerhouse. While Bravestone was previously "played" by Spencer, now he is the avatar of Spencer’s grandfather, Eddie. That means the Rock gets to act like Danny DeVito, which is really all the sales pitch we need for this sequel.
Jack Black plays Professor Shelly Oberon, who is now the avatar for Fridge; Karen Gillan is back as Ruby Roundhouse, and she's the only character who maintains the same pairing as in the previous movie. Ruby is Martha's avatar once again. This time, Martha will almost certainly become a leader. And Kevin Hart returns as Mouse Finbar, a zoologist and weapons specialist, who is now "played" by Danny Glover's character, Milo.
Additionally, Nick Jonas is back as pilot Seaplane McDonough, but it’s unclear whose mind will be placed inside his body. The film also features Rhys Darby as Nigel Billingsley, and Awkwafina (OCEANS 8, THE FAREWELL) has joined, in an unknown role.
It would be easy for the Jumanji films to fall back on formula; every movie could basically see the stars tackling a new quest. JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL has taken a different and more exciting direction, with an added element of mystery. Spencer is missing, and he’s surely to be found somewhere in the game world. We don't know what character he now "plays" — is it possible that we'll see the Rock face himself, with one version played by Spencer, and one as the avatar of his grandfather?
For that matter, what happens to Bethany? She shows up at Spencer's house, but the trailer does not reveal whether or not she is also pulled back into Jumanji.
All images courtesy of Sony Pictures.