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) 75%

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) 69%

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) 40%

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

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