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‘Jumanji: The Next Level:’ Ultra-high definition visuals meet ultra-average plot (4K Ultra HD review)

Written By | Apr 8, 2020
Jumanji: The Next Level, Duane Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Movie, Review

“Jumanji: The Next Level,” now available on 4K Ultra HD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The sequel to the 2017 hit movie Jumanji that updated the Robin Williams-fueled classic about a board game that comes to life successfully debuted to theaters late last year. It brought an entertaining cast ready to please but hindered by a meandering plot.

Now available in ultra-high definition and packed with extras, Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 123 minutes, $45.99) tempts home theater families with dazzling visuals after its successful box office run.

As viewers will remember, Jumanji is now a video game that sucks human players into its virtual universe and transforms them into skill-enhanced characters.

When the original group of kids that survived the first round of Jumanji has a reunion— Martha Kaply (Morgan Turner), Anthony “Fridge” Johnson (Ser’Darius Blain) and Bethany Walker (Madison Iseman) — they find out conspicuously absent member Spencer Gilpin (Alex Wolff) has fixed the game cartridge they thought was destroyed.

Sending them back into the dangerous world.

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To save him, Fridge and Martha also return but this time, accidentally, with a pair of senior citizens — Milo Walker (Danny Glover) and Spencer’s grandfather Eddie Gilpin (Danny Devito) —as the team transforms into a variety of familiar avatars from the last film.

They include Dr. Xander “Smolder” Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon (Jack Black), Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart), Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) and new Ming Fleetfoot (Awkwafina).

The group’s mission is to not only find Spencer but cooperatively try to recover the Falcon Jewel from warlord Jurgen the Terrible (Rory McCann) to revitalize the Jumanji lands.

Yes, it is just like an adventure one might find in a third-person video game.

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Once again, the comedic chemistry between Mr. Johnson and Mr. Hart helps save the film along with some roller-coaster-ride-style action scenes such as a stampede of ostriches in the desert attacking the team; a shifting, wooden suspension bridge escape (like a “Tomb Raider” game); and a harrowing battle above Mount Zhatmire.

Despite the sometimes tedious plot, video game junkies will be amused while families with tweens looking for an adventure will not be disappointed.

4K in action:

The 4K presentation, upscaled from 2K source material, has plenty of opportunities to shine thanks to the varied panoramic and hue-saturated terrains of Jumanji such as a jungle, a desert, snowy mountains, a Middle Eastern village, and a forest.

The story may plod, but the clarity and color of the presentation will keep eyes riveted to the screen.

Best extras:

Sony goes above the call of duty in pleasing youngsters who loved the movie.

First, the package includes a paper map that when used with a smartphone and augmented reality website brings a virtual world to an owner’s living space.

The map comes to life when hovered over with a phone’s camera and offers translucent green beam hotspots that when tapped on lead to about a half dozen, very rudimentary activities and mini-games.

While clicking on areas such as the Oasis, Dunes or the Fortress, owners might find a desert dash challenge involving controlling a vehicle (left or right) to avoid stampeding ostriches. A slot-machine-style spinner that reconfigures body parts of characters (head, torso, and legs) to come up with a new Jumanji player.

Or a battle requiring tapping onscreen at attacking warriors of Jurgen the Terrible’s army to defeat them.

Issues may arise with actually getting the map to render primarily when using the paper’s QR code to pull up the website.

Specifically, the software kept asking me to update to a newer version of my iPhone’s operating system, even though I was using the most up-to-date version. Maybe folks with an Android phone will have better results, but it’s certainly flawed.

Players reward

Finish all of the activities and players get a simulation to dress up as a character with their real face in the phone layover that also lists one’s powerful skills and weaknesses.

Overall, Sony and the developers deliver an uninspired, mediocre and technically challenging virtual experience that might only amuse the youngest of fans.

Fortunately, another extended movie experience can only be found through using the digital code in the package and accessing its extras through iTunes. Of course, this one should have been available on the 4K disc.

The “Get in the Game Mode” allows viewers to replay the film and watch some old school video game graphics intermittently pop up on the screen with sound effects that offer extra information about the movie, its characters, current locations and story.

For example, after zoologist Mouse Finbar almost gets eaten by a hippopotamus, we get a clock in the corner of the screen that counts how long it takes him to explain what a hippo is, and a fact box pops up on the right side of the screen offering the nugget that the creature has tusk-like, canine teeth that grow throughout its life.

Or, as characters die and are reborn, a counter pops up that keeps track of their remaining lives.

Additionally, loads of featurettes filler are available via the included Blu-ray version of the film.

Of the almost hour’s worth of stuff covering the production of the film as well as its promotion (Mr. Hart visiting Mr. Johnson’s house for Halloween is pretty amusing), viewers will most enjoy a look at the practical and digital effects used to create the ostrich chase and Mandrill baboon attack scenes as well as a previsualization comparison to the final footage of the battle aboard a zeppelin.

• This story originally appeared in The Washington Times.

Joseph Szadkowski

A graduate of Northwestern University with a degree in communications, Joseph Szadkowski has written about popular culture for The Washington Times for the past 25 years. He covers video games, comic books, new media and technology.