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Things Only Adults Noticed In Jumanji: The Next Level

It's game on once again for Jumanji. The 2017 film Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle found four teens trapped inside of a video game where they had to brave a dangerous jungle to return home alive, all while inhabiting the bodies of archetypal video game characters. Those included explorer Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Professor Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black), zoologist Mouse Finbar (Kevin Hart), and commando Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). In Jumanji: The Next Level, all four teens — Spencer, Bethany, Fridge, and Martha — are back home for the holidays and manage to get themselves captured by that Jumanji cartridge once again. Only this time, the game is different, offering up desert and snow world levels along with a fearsome villain in warlord Jurgen the Brutal (Rory McCann).

Jumanji: The Next Level is packed with action and jokes, with plenty to keep even the child with the shortest attention span happy. There's also plenty of stuff to keep older viewers engaged... and asking questions. Here are some things that only discerning, adult moviegoers will enjoy (or spot) in Jumanji: The Next Level.

What's the ideal audience for Jumanji: The Next Level, anyway?

Jumanji: The Next Level has been marketed as a family film. After all, its central protagonists are teenagers and the action revolves around a video game with lots of jokes and action sequences to fill out the running time. There's a romantic subplot involving Martha and Spencer, two warring friends resolve their differences, and every character learns a little about themselves. Yes, there's a little something for everybody in Jumanji: The Next Level — a little too much. Kid viewers may marvel at the dazzling array of treats on offer, but adults may be puzzled as to who, exactly, this movie is for. It's a kids' movie, but the kids in it are college-age, so then they're actually adults. Coming to terms with aging is a major theme — Danny DeVito's Eddie learns that growing old isn't a burden but rather "a gift" and he goes back into the workforce after 15 years of fuming over his business partner selling his restaurant. That's not exactly something kids can relate to, but then, older adults viewers who would get all that probably don't care too much about the inner workings of video games.

We can smell what the Rock is smoldering in Jumanji: The Next Level

There's a fun but subtle running gag in Jumanji: The Next Level that references one of its stars' trademarks outside of the JumanjiVerse. Some viewers of Jumanji: The Next Level may be too young to know Dwayne Johnson as anything other than the charming star of major motion pictures like this one, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and Moana. They may not have any knowledge of Johnson's pre-movie star career, and how he first found fame in the '90s: as phenomenally popular WWE wrestler the Rock. Johnson's persona became one of the most popular wrestlers ever because he knew how to work an audience and give them what they want. He had a memorable catchphrase — "Can you smell what the Rock is cooking?" — and a signature facial expression. He'd adopt a steel gaze and stare off into the distance while raising one eyebrow as high as it could go. It was both intimidating and amusing, and it's very similar to the intense action hero stare delivered by Smolder Bravestone, the video game avatar portrayed by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

Jumanji: The Next Level shouldn't look this good

The whole reason a bunch of people get sucked into the malfunctioning Jumanji video game for the second time is a matter of wrong place, wrong time. Spencer's friends go into the basement to look for him, and the magical, mystical video game console that's more than 20 years old ensnares them, as well as Milo (Danny Glover) and Eddie (Danny DeVito) who are upstairs doing their own thing. Several times there are close-up shots of the console, its exposed inner workings, and the bruised, beaten, and disfigured Jumanji game, which is so old it comes on a cartridge. Specifically, it resembles a Sega Genesis cartridge, a reference lost on anyone born after the year 2000 or so, which is when disc-based gaming became the industry standard, bringing with it higher storage capacity for much more complex and realistically-rendered games. Which all makes a Jumanji: The Next Level viewer of a certain age wonder how such a primitive video game could feature extraordinarily lifelike graphics. Dwayne Johnson and Karen Gillan should look like Sonic and Tails, not Dwayne Johnson and Karen Gillan.

Did Fridge flub football?

Jumanji: The Next Level takes place a couple of years after the events of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which was released a couple of years prior. Before the same four kids get sucked into the same game again and have to battle their way out, the audience gets some updates about what's going on in the life of each character. They've all moved away from home to attend various colleges, including Anthony Johnson (Ser'Darius Blain), or, as his so-called friends call him, "Fridge." First of all, that's a cruel nickname — it means he's either as big as a refrigerator, or eats so much he's as full of food as a refrigerator. It reminds older viewers of a player with a similar, and semi-derisive nickname: William "The Refrigerator" Perry, the 6'3", 350-pound tackle who played in the NFL in the '80s and '90s.

At least Fridge is a football player. He's shown working out in a gym, and mentions the burden of constant practices, but there's a subtle implication that Fridge is not a very good football player. He's easily able to head home for winter break, which is when most successful college football players would be stuck playing in or preparing for a bowl game. Either Fridge's team is bad, or he wasn't invited to go to the bowl game with the rest of the squad.

Watch your mouth, Jumanji: The Next Level

Adult viewers might be surprised to learn that Jumanji: The Next Level is not as wholesome and family-friendly as they may have believed before stepping into the theater. There's a lot of material that will sail right over the heads of innocent young viewers... or, if they're a little older, make make them uncomfortable, seeing as how they have to endure those moments while sitting next to their parents. When Milo, the elderly man portrayed by Danny Glover in the "real" world, adopts a horse avatar, Eddie (at that point in the body of Awkwafina) says, "You're not gonna believe how big your —" The scene cuts to avoid finishing the sentence, but adults obviously know they're talking about the horse's, uh, undercarriage. There's also a sequence in which Jurgen the Brutal's associates mistake Kevin Hart's character for a famous eunuch, and while it's explained that this means he's been castrated, this may still puzzle young filmgoers not familiar with this historical phenomenon. This is to say nothing of the high volume of mild swearing in the movie. Fridge, via his many avatars, uses the "D" word with abandon, while he and Eddie drop a couple of "S" bombs.

How are these kids still friends?

It takes a while for Jumanji: The Next Level to get going, which is to say to get the young quartet of friends into the video game world and into the skins of their movie star avatars. The long first act of the movie catches up the audience on what Bethany, Spencer, Fridge, and Martha have been up to since last they were seen in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. In short, they've all graduated high school and moved away — Martha is in college, Fridge is too (and playing football), Bethany does charity work, and Spencer works a dreary job in a Manhattan pharmacy. They all reconnect when they come home for the holidays, or at least they try to. Spencer doesn't show up for a scheduled brunch, and the other three realize he's been increasingly out of touch in recent months. This is a pattern older viewers know all too well: One naturally grows apart from their tight circle of high school and hometown friends. Kid viewers may not quite understand or believe that they won't be best friends forever with their childhood BFFs, but Jumanji: The Next Level makes it clear why that happens: These four people, who live in disparate parts of the country following disparate paths, don't have very much in common with each other.

There are some deep and troubling themes in Jumanji: The Next Level

On the surface, it's a movie about video games and celebrity impersonations, but Jumanji: The Next Level surprisingly (and effectively) explores a number of psychological truths, most of which kids just wouldn't understand because they simply haven't lived long enough to relate. Spencer is full-on depressed — he feels like his life is going nowhere and because of that, is too ashamed to see his more successful friends. (It's a mindset that already led him to split with his girlfriend, Martha.) Many people have this type of existential crisis after high school, the sense of not knowing what to do or where to go next and feeling like a failure because of it. Particularly astute audience members may think that Spencer feels he "peaked" already — after all, he's likely never going to have a life experience that comes close to matching living inside of a deadly video game.

Winter is coming for Jumanji: The Next Level

Rory McCann joins the world of Jumanji with his role as the terrifying villain of Jumanji: The Next Level, a power-made, aptly-named warrior-king named Jurgen the Brutal. McCann is most recognizable to audiences (and primarily to the adults in the audience) for his work on Game of Thrones as the equally intimidating Sandor Clegane, a.k.a. "The Hound." Jurgen the Brutal ultimately isn't all that far removed from the Hound, as Jumanji: The Next Level includes a few clever references to McCann's late, great HBO series. Early in the film, Jurgen is flanked by a pair of massive, bloodthirsty hyenas. They're very shaggy, and not instantly recognizable as that particular wild animal; they actually look more like big dogs, or, in Thrones parlance, direwolves. Dressed in furs and sulking around a castle half the time, Jurgen sometimes looks like he's cosplaying as Jon Snow, but then the film gives a shoutout to his old Game of Thrones character. Jurgen battles to the death with Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) on an airship. At one point, Bravestone jumps onto Jurgen, sending them both falling. That's just like the way the Hound jumped onto his brother, the Mountain, during their epic battle that resulted in both of their deaths. Jumanji: The Next Level is dark and full of terrors.

Jumanji of Arabia

Kids have a variety of entertainment options at their disposal, but at the end of the day, most all of them are going to wind up watching the same movie, a true classic fervently beloved by all the children of the world in the year 2019: Lawrence of Arabia, the 1962 historical epic about British military leader T.E. Lawrence that won the Academy Award for Best Picture. No, we're kidding — kids today aren't into Lawrence of Arabia, nor were kids into the movie when it was first released. However, it's an indelible classic of film, and at least two of its elements became cultural touchstones: cinematographer Freddie Young's sweeping, beautiful shots of desert landscapes, and Maurice Jarre's regal, rousing score. Jumanji: The Next Level features many desert scenes, providing the opportunity for a visual reference to Lawrence of Arabia in the form of an extra-wide shot. More mature filmgoers will likely understand these allusions, especially since the Jumanji score emphasizes it with musical motifs that hint at the Lawrence score. There are very few kids on Earth who would smile and chuckle at these highbrow jokes.

A double-edged cameo

Jumanji: The Next Level ends on a positive note for most of its characters. For example, Spencer and Martha have rekindled their romance, while Grandpa Eddie decides to get over his forced retirement 15 years earlier and visits Nora's, the diner that replaced the restaurant he once ran for decades with BFF Milo. Nora shows up and warmly greets him, and who should it be but Aunt Nora from the first Jumanji movie from 1995? Bebe Neuwirth reprises her role, showing that her character apparently moved on from running a bed and breakfast to operating a small-town diner.

Nora mentions to Eddie that her manager quit, and offers him the job. It's a sweet moment of redemption for a man who has struggled with restlessness and feeling useless, but then he has to go and ruin it by acting in a manner that most adults would call extremely unprofessional — Eddie flashes his bedroom eyes and growls a come-on to Nora, who is, as of a few seconds earlier, his boss. She appreciates the flirtation, but it's still awkward for the audience. Adding to the weirdness is that Eddie is evidently into women who look like his daughter. Neuwirth bears a striking resemblance to Marin Hinkle, the actress who portrays his daughter in this movie.