Critics Consensus

Jumanji: The Next Level Is Fun but Familiar

Plus, Richard Jewell is well-crafted, Bombshell is only mildly explosive, Black Christmas is a mixed bag, and Uncut Gems is Certified Fresh.

by | December 12, 2019 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got a video game adventure (Jumanji: The Next Level, starring Dwayne Johnson and Jack Black), a persecuted hero (Richard Jewell, starring Paul Walter Hauser and Sam Rockwell), a man in serious debt (Uncut Gems, starring Adam Sandler and Julia Fox), a real-life scandal (Bombshell, starring Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman), and a horror remake (Black Christmas, starring Imogen Poots and Aleyse Shannon). What are the critics saying?


Jumanji: The Next Level (2019) 71%

Let’s be honest: The 2017 reboot-quel Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle had no business turning out as entertaining as it did, but entertaining it was, not to mention profitable. How profitable, you may ask? It made just under $1 billion worldwide off a $90 million budget, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that we get a follow-up this week. In Jumanji: The Next Level, the original four teens are off to college and separated from each other, and Spencer (Alex Wolff) is longing for the good old days when he inhabited the body of The Rock (and who wouldn’t?). Having repaired the Jumanji console after it was destroyed at the end of the first film, Spencer heads back into the game solo, and his pals decide to go in after him — except this time, they’ve inadvertently dragged Spencer’s grandfather (Danny DeVito) and his estranged BFF (Danny Glover) into the game, too. Aside from that last wrinkle, though, much of The Next Level plays out the same way as the first, and that seems to be just fine for most critics, who feel that whatever the sequel loses in freshness, it largely makes up for with a willingness to go to some wacky lengths for laughs. It may feel overly familiar to some, but those who enjoyed the first adventure are probably just as likely to enjoy this one, which takes some of those expectations and fiddles with them just enough to keep things interesting.


Richard Jewell (2019) 76%

Back in 1996, smack dab in the middle of the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, a pipe bomb exploded in Centennial Olympic Park, killing one person and injuring dozens more. The man who originally discovered the bomb, a security guard named Richard Jewell, alerted the authorities and helped evacuate spectators to safety, and he became a hero in the process. Well, for a few days, anyway, until reports began to surface that he was a “person of interest” in the FBI’s investigation, at which point Jewell underwent a grueling trial by media that changed his life forever. Clint Eastwood‘s latest directorial effort, Richard Jewell, is a dramatization of these events, with Paul Walter Hauser playing the title character at the center of the whirlwind, Sam Rockwell as his old friend and eventual attorney, and Kathy Bates as Jewell’s mother Bobi — they’re the good guys. On the other end, we have Jon Hamm as an unscrupulous G-man and Olivia Wilde as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer who broke the story of the FBI’s interest in Jewell. It’s an impressive cast, and critics say each performer offers striking work under Eastwood’s steady direction, even if the story itself has been somewhat oversimplified for dramatic effect. Eastwood clearly has a message on his mind in Richard Jewell, and he largely succeeds in communicating it clearly and effectively. He’s in comfortable territory here, and it works to his advantage; fans of his work should find plenty to enjoy.


Uncut Gems (2019) 92%

Josh and Benny Safdie had something of a coming-out party last year with Good Time, a kinetic thriller that showcased some of the best work of star Robert Pattinson‘s post-Twilight career. The Safdies decided to follow that up with another tense drama, this time starring frequent critical whipping boy Adam Sandler, and most critics agree the risk paid off in spades. In Uncut Gems, Sandler plays Howard, a New York City jeweler with a self-destructive gambling addiction who regularly places sporting bets with money that doesn’t belong to him. Howard comes into possession of a rare, uncut Ethiopian opal that captures the attention of NBA star Kevin Garnett, which leads to a series of ill-advised collateral swaps, basketball wagers, and mob-style shakedowns as he attempts to pay off his debts by selling the stone at auction. Critics say the Certified Fresh Uncut Gems is a relentless thrill-ride that amps up the anxiety at every turn and benefits from stellar work by its cast, especially Sandler, who had some folks pegging him for a Best Actor nod at the Oscars. He’s proven in the past that with the right material, he can pull off serious roles like nobody’s business, and this is quite possibly his best effort to date. The film is unnerving and propulsive, and it should lead to even bigger opportunities for the Safdies.


Bombshell (2019) 70%

Director Jay Roach is nothing if not experienced in relaying timely stories about hot-button topics to the general moviegoing public, having helmed films like Recount and Game Change, so this week’s Bombshell thus falls squarely within his wheelhouse. He’s also got a ridiculously talented roster of actors at his disposal for the film, from stars Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, and Margot Robbie to supporting characters played by the likes of John Lithgow, Kate McKinnon, and Allison Janney, as well as a script by The Big Short screenwriter Charles Randolph, so it’s slightly disappointing that the film isn’t doing better with critics. The ripped-from-the-headlines story retraces the scandal that brought down Fox News chief Roger Ailes (Lithgow), who was accused by Megyn Kelly (Theron), Gretchen Carlson (Kidman), and other women (represented by Robbie, playing a composite character) of sexual harassment. Reviews have been quick to sing the praises of the three luminous women in the lead roles — all of whom have secured SAG Award nominations — and most critics have been satisfied by the film’s entertaining treatment of the subject matter, though some lament its reluctance to delve deeper into the culture at large surrounding the scandal. It’s not quite a scathing indictment, and those familiar with the story won’t necessarily learn anything new, but it’s presented entertainingly enough to warrant a watch.


Black Christmas (2019) 38%

Modern horror remakes didn’t use to inspire a whole lot of confidence, but in the last few years, we’ve gotten decent-to-great do-overs of ItSuspiria, and Halloween (OK, that last one was technically a sequel). Enter this week’s Black Christmas, which hopes to put a contemporary spin on the seminal 1974 slasher whose first remake, back in 2006, is itself one of the reasons we generally don’t think too highly of these types of efforts. Writer-director Sophia Takal and co-writer April Wolfe to return to the sorority house and tell a new story. While it still centers on a mysterious figure stalking and killing a group of college coeds, the latter are no longer mere victims; they fight back, and ferociously. Only a handful of critics have weighed in on Black Christmas so far, and the response has been fairly split. Not everyone agrees about whether the film’s underlying feminist themes were handled gracefully, and some feel its bloodless violence robs the film of some of its bite, but a small majority feel that the cast’s committed performances — Imogen Poots in particular — help elevate what might otherwise be another forgettable retread. It may not be the scariest or most subversive horror flick around, in other words, but it’s relatively harmless fun for anyone in the mood for something decidedly more sinister during the holidays.


Also Opening This Week In Limited Release

  • Colewell (2019) , starring Karen Allen in a drama about a small-town mail clerk who must reexamine her life when the post office where she works announces it’s closing, is at 100%.
  • Code 8 (2019) , an action thriller set in a world where a superpowered minority of the population is persecuted as outcasts, is at 83%.
  • A Hidden Life (2019)Terrence Malick‘s drama about Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian farmer who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War II, is at 76%.
  • Cunningham (2019) , a documentary profile of influential avant-garde dance choreographer Merce Cunningham’s decades-spanning career, is at 73%.
  • Rabid (2019) , a horror film about a woman who undergoes an experimental procedure after an accident, only to discover she is patient zero for a violent, rapidly spreading disease, is at 67%.
  • Seberg (2020) , starring Kristen Stewart in a drama about actress Jean Seberg‘s brushes with the law over her political activisim in the 1960s, is at 44%.
  • The Death and Life of John F. Donovan (2019) , starring Jacob Tremblay and Kit Harington in a drama about the written correspondence between a young boy and the actor he idolizes, is at 17%.

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

Valentine's Day Amazon Studios tv talk cartoon halloween streaming Adult Swim Hallmark Christmas movies Election Drama aliens TCA Television Academy BET Comic Book Action Brie Larson Shudder Masterpiece Song of Ice and Fire 21st Century Fox Calendar golden globes Anna Paquin documentary cooking Awards Tour Disney Channel 45 spider-man Disney streaming service 2019 medical drama Cannes Mindy Kaling DirecTV period drama hispanic Netflix Fantasy Film police drama zombies psychological thriller elevated horror Film Festival batman Captain marvel werewolf name the review Trivia Vudu USA Network TBS Musical rotten movies we love Infographic Star Wars Rocky adventure Ghostbusters Fox News dramedy blaxploitation PaleyFest FX Thanksgiving Superheroes anthology Year in Review Shondaland Summer 24 frames strong female leads Sundance TV CBS Quiz Chernobyl Stephen King politics ghosts supernatural Binge Guide mutant IFC Films Paramount DC Comics Apple Amazon Prime Spike IFC RT21 quibi AMC miniseries Baby Yoda crime Sundance YouTube Red VICE dogs Family The Walking Dead binge TCA Winter 2020 travel hist Winners comic directors Tomatazos Logo BBC slashers Lifetime Christmas movies cancelled television dceu 71st Emmy Awards RT History kids Crackle Avengers cars MTV talk show Comedy what to watch technology Sci-Fi Red Carpet movie DC Universe cancelled TV series dragons unscripted TV Land crime thriller discovery cats Showtime FXX thriller Reality breaking bad romantic comedy teaser VH1 spain Teen theme song Extras television series Animation The CW Pop YouTube free movies Lucasfilm National Geographic cancelled TV shows diversity reboot science fiction TCA 2017 TV Freeform Trailer Comedy Central versus Music E3 Paramount Network Britbox Marvel Dark Horse Comics YouTube Premium GoT El Rey Toys Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Spring TV award winner History TLC war Starz HBO Video Games Turner Classic Movies E! sequel SXSW Walt Disney Pictures spinoff Writers Guild of America stand-up comedy movies Marvel Studios Western ABC Family serial killer WarnerMedia Christmas CBS All Access TV renewals composers Sundance Now Countdown doctor who sag awards biography screen actors guild PBS TCM Set visit Mary Poppins Returns X-Men jamie lee curtis Character Guide WGN Sony Pictures cancelled Tarantino APB Ovation political drama harry potter screenings FOX nature christmas movies video LGBT Interview Emmy Nominations zero dark thirty 2015 Syfy OneApp romance Warner Bros. Pride Month MSNBC ratings Discovery Channel adaptation Holiday Amazon Epix President 007 A&E CNN GIFs Elton John space Rom-Com vampires Creative Arts Emmys Arrowverse Rock Holidays Oscars Nickelodeon Pet Sematary comics Awards Horror finale Women's History Month Heroines Country Best and Worst 2016 Musicals Marvel Television 2020 zombie Marathons GLAAD Podcast transformers Tubi ESPN ABC mockumentary 20th Century Fox NYCC Universal renewed TV shows sitcom crime drama joker CW Seed game of thrones justice league Classic Film Superheroe Turner A24 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Tumblr Pixar Pirates cops cults indie docudrama disaster 2017 blockbuster historical drama 2018 Hulu TNT crossover robots independent The Witch true crime Black Mirror First Look Lionsgate BBC America book Nat Geo richard e. Grant Hallmark MCU Photos Martial Arts animated DGA Schedule Sneak Peek Grammys dc Opinion singing competition Kids & Family Bravo boxoffice Disney Plus TIFF New York Comic Con Apple TV Plus Box Office Ellie Kemper Biopics See It Skip It Endgame Fall TV Certified Fresh Disney witnail The Arrangement based on movie Star Trek comiccon Rocketman Food Network Lifetime Cosplay Mudbound toy story Academy Awards Emmys canceled green book Trophy Talk Amazon Prime Video Comics on TV revenge Mary poppins SundanceTV Disney+ Disney Plus American Society of Cinematographers foreign children's TV psycho Acorn TV Esquire Winter TV Apple TV+ canceled TV shows Super Bowl First Reviews San Diego Comic-Con NBC USA OWN Premiere Dates Polls and Games spanish language YA casting sports festivals LGBTQ The Purge natural history DC streaming service game show latino Spectrum Originals ITV Columbia Pictures Mystery Mary Tyler Moore Nominations Reality Competition spy thriller Watching Series CMT south america Cartoon Network anime SDCC HBO Max Crunchyroll Netflix Christmas movies cinemax TruTV social media facebook Peacock