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

Interview comiccon Starz Endgame cops Nickelodeon space Syfy TBS Musical BET Awards cancelled APB Comedy Central ABC technology video period drama Warner Bros. Pop DGA Sundance Now universal monsters cults Rocky Pixar critics Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Arrowverse YouTube Premium transformers Tubi Emmy Nominations psycho game of thrones disaster comedies dragons Superheroe RT21 National Geographic dark YouTube Set visit 20th Century Fox asian-american a nightmare on elm street TCA Winter 2020 BAFTA Academy Awards cartoon composers theme song diversity Crunchyroll Awards Kids & Family best child's play TV Land Black Mirror hispanic AMC 24 frames casting indiana jones dramedy Christmas satire Infographic Paramount Funimation Spectrum Originals WarnerMedia facebook Biopics independent crime YA Holidays Action Marvel Television supernatural Winners concert Winter TV zero dark thirty Nominations spider-man historical drama First Reviews all-time sitcom boxoffice elevated horror Creative Arts Emmys sequel Masterpiece Family Mary Tyler Moore Trophy Talk stand-up comedy GIFs Grammys ITV Epix Chernobyl south america HBO Max twilight sports CBS Fox News Crackle Apple Red Carpet Reality Competition Shudder WGN Hallmark Binge Guide game show unscripted The Purge teaser Sci-Fi travel MTV BBC Countdown Emmys Ghostbusters Tomatazos biography zombies Lifetime Christmas movies Fantasy witnail VH1 Trailer Lionsgate Food Network Marvel FX docudrama Oscars Marvel Studios news Netflix Star Wars television richard e. Grant Disney Dark Horse Comics romantic comedy canceled TCM what to watch Logo SXSW Extras miniseries films Superheroes indie cancelled TV series spinoff LGBT American Society of Cinematographers Super Bowl PlayStation free movies BET Classic Film Ellie Kemper die hard aliens Pop TV franchise Spring TV Quiz 4/20 politics Baby Yoda San Diego Comic-Con documentary Ovation Elton John singing competition 2015 Disney Plus Pirates SundanceTV RT History crime thriller nature Hulu Video Games Martial Arts Universal Thanksgiving Women's History Month Teen festivals El Rey Writers Guild of America Cannes Sundance TCA 2017 Star Trek The Arrangement golden globes animated Lifetime VICE tv talk Drama dogs cats New York Comic Con DC Universe DC Comics 2018 renewed TV shows HBO TV renewals Brie Larson MCU Rocketman justice league Hallmark Christmas movies mission: impossible Nat Geo quibi 71st Emmy Awards FOX Film Festival cooking Box Office harry potter Best and Worst CNN rotten movies we love mutant cinemax SDCC jamie lee curtis 2019 Amazon Prime Video discovery revenge A&E NBC GoT spy thriller Columbia Pictures Adult Swim YouTube Red PBS IFC Films Turner Classic Movies Walt Disney Pictures Marathons Bravo Esquire spanish language Western Vudu 2020 Certified Fresh Amazon Studios talk show FX on Hulu batman Disney Channel ESPN Holiday Animation Spike Acorn TV Premiere Dates Tumblr werewolf screenings psychological thriller directors Discovery Channel chucky Cartoon Network Black History Month TLC 21st Century Fox comic Pet Sematary ABC Family 45 reviews breaking bad OneApp The Walking Dead Schedule Avengers Reality based on movie OWN LGBTQ Captain marvel Rom-Com Britbox VOD Apple TV+ blaxploitation parents joker HBO Go dceu comics TruTV Podcast Calendar BBC One ratings Election A24 streaming Sony Pictures TV canceled TV shows blockbuster DirecTV reboot serial killer First Look E3 Fall TV name the review criterion Photos 007 robots strong female leads vampires Mudbound CW Seed Amazon Mary Poppins Returns movies USA stoner MSNBC Cosplay Turner mockumentary Awards Tour screen actors guild science fiction Freeform Opinion Travel Channel cancelled television Mary poppins anthology CMT documentaries Watching Series Year in Review slashers Music Sneak Peek social media christmas movies cars Mystery GLAAD Song of Ice and Fire Anna Paquin Horror X-Men Heroines Sundance TV TCA Toys TNT The Witch Pride Month E! hist Apple TV Plus Netflix Christmas movies Disney+ Disney Plus History Amazon Prime anime kids BBC America crossover Disney streaming service toy story adventure President binge Valentine's Day Film adaptation Rock PaleyFest Stephen King The CW 2016 Comics on TV Mindy Kaling political drama Peacock Chilling Adventures of Sabrina NYCC See It Skip It foreign war thriller latino natural history spain Comic Book Trivia Polls and Games green book police drama cancelled TV shows finale Comedy series Tarantino Television Academy ghosts crime drama medical drama Character Guide Summer USA Network true crime doctor who video on demand CBS All Access children's TV romance dc halloween FXX DC streaming service sag awards award winner Musicals Paramount Network Hear Us Out Showtime Lucasfilm versus Shondaland movie zombie TIFF Country scary movies IFC 2017 book