4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
The Jumanji gang is back with some surprises - Karen Gillan as Ruby, Dwayne Johnson as Bravestone, Jack Black as Oberon, Awkwafina as Ming and Kevin Hart as Mouse.
“JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2019; PG-13 for adventure action, suggestive content and some profanity; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), Apple (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube(4K)
Best extra: All fun! “Level Up: Making ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’”
IN A WORLD of drama, adventure-comedy “Jumanji: The Next Level” was still playing when the COVID-19 quarantine shut theaters down March 16, 2020. It had opened December 15, 2019. Three months is a great run!
The original cast returns with Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan, along with Alex Wolff, Morgan Turner, Madison Iseman and Ser’Darius Blain. They’re joined by Danny DeVito, Danny Glover, Awkwafina and Rory McCann, best known as Sandor Clegane/The Hound from “The Game of Thrones.” How can we not have fun with that?
It’s been known to happen. Sequels have a 50/50 chance of success or leaving a sour taste in the popcorn. Lucky for us, “Level Up” hits the ground running, flying and jumping bringing laughs we all need right now.
(1) Spencer Gilpin (Alex Wolff) is home for the holidays from NYU and finds his grandfather Eddie (Danny DeVito), staying in his bedroom after recovering from hip surgery. (2) Spencer can't sleep and heads to the basement and plugs-in the old Jumanji game. (3) The next morning former high school friends Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) meet up at a coffee shop. (4) Eddie and his former restaurant partner Milo (Danny Glover) have breakfast.
“It was critical to find a way of expanding the idea that it wouldn’t just feel like we were doing the same thing again. When we realized that you could have the same cast playing different people, all of us got really excited about that.” — Jake Kasdan, director/writer/producer
To say much about the plot would spoil it, but the teens are now in college and home for the holidays. Everyone is doing well, although lovebirds Spencer (Wolff) and Martha (Turner) aren’t in a good place. Spencer is also sharing his bedroom with his Grandpa Eddie (DeVito) who’s recovering from hip surgery. Eddie’s old business partner Milo (Glover), whom he’s been avoiding, shows up – just as Spencer decides to get his mojo back by re-visiting Jumanji’s Dr. Xander “Smolder” Bravestone (Johnson).
Chaos ensues – with ostriches, camels, mandrills, villains and stunts galore. Hooray!
“Danny Glover. Everything he says is just happy. That could be a very funny place to play with – that older man that’s a little more at ease.” —Kevin Hart
“I assumed we were doing another ‘Jumanji’ when the first one made $900 million. So I’m not gonna say I was surprised when I got the call.” — Jack Black
(1) Martha, Fridge, Eddie, and Milo are sucked into the game. (2) Martha is back as the Ruby Roundhouse avatar. (3&4) Eddie and Milo are Bravestone and Mouse and find their avatar bodies more flexible. While Fridge is now Professor Oberon.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment delivers a fine batch of short bonus features, most including interviews with the director, producers and cast, and some made only for fun.
“Body Swapping: Snapping into Character” looks at how the cast steps back into new and old roles; “Back Together: Reuniting the Cast” explores getting together again; “Level Up: Making ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’” goes into story, effects and tech; “Creating the Scene” illustrates the digital and physical process of two scenes.
“Rhys Darby Wants to Jingle” showcases the game guide, who missed the group song video in the first film’s extras. “Awkwafina Cat Burgler” is where Golden Globe winner Awkwafina talks about playing DeVito’s grandpa character. Like Johnson, she’s perfect!
“NPC Confessions: Jurgen the Brutal” lets Rory McCann show he’s not just a big brute of a guy, while “Telenovela” and “Trick or Treat” give alternative visions of the film and its characters. “Grow Up” has DeVito and Glover training Johnson and Hart for their roles, and “Select Scene Pre-Vis” provides side-by-side animations on two finished scenes. Naturally, there’s a gag reel.
(1-3) Guide Nigel Billingsley (Rhys Darby) informs the gang that the game has changed. Their challenge will be to retrieve the magical necklace of the Falcon's Heart, which keeps the land fertile. The necklace and stone were stolen by warlord Jurgen the Brutal (Rory McCann) and a drought overtook the land. (4) The beginning of the ostrich invasion.
Kasdan and Hungarian cinematographer Gyula Pados reunite to capture the adventure on 3.4K digital cameras mounted with classic anamorphic lens from Panavision. With several thousand VFX shots, the rendering and mastering were finished in 2K (saving time and money) and then upconverted for the 4K presentation. The overall sharpness and clarity between the 4K and Blu-ray are very similar, with a slight edge to the 4K with more defined costume textures from shirts, hats and furry jackets. Both formats are quite striking especially during the expansive desert scene filmed in New Mexico and the snowcapped Canadian Rockies in the final act backdrop. Sometimes the extra clarity from the 4K reveals a less desirable transition between the actors and effects shots.
Colors are rich and saturated with all formats from greens, blues and varying shades of red. The HDR10 (disc) and Dolby Vision (digital) toning produce a darker and brighter image with its wider contrast levels and the greater color palette produces natural facial toning from the multiethnic cast.
From the opening frames, the eight-channel DTS:X soundtrack (4K disc) and Dolby Atmos (4K digital) puts us right in the action with sounds and effects pushed to height and surround speakers. You’ll hear the birds and the rest of the wild kingdom bouncing from the ceiling and around the room, plus the Jumanji new life ring when a character drops from the sky. The core DTS-HD track (Blu-ray) minus the height soundstage is nearly as effective, with hundreds of screaming ostriches and mandrills racing after the gang. Henry Jackman’s exciting score delivers a deep bass response from the Jumanji game drums.
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” “was fun, it had a ton of heart and I think it was a surprise,” Johnson says in “Level Up, Making ‘Jumanji: The Next Level.’” “We had a movie for everybody,” Hart agrees.
Rottentomatoes.com gives “Jumanji: The Next Level” good ratings: 71 percent from critics and 87 percent from viewers.
— Kay Reynolds and Bill Kelley III, High-def Watch producer