“Jumanji: The Next Level” (Columbia)

Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black and Karen Gillan star in a scene from the movie "Jumanji: The Next Level." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS/Sony)

By Catholic News Service

Playful gender-bending within the context of a video-game alternate universe mingles with an unexpectedly somber message about approaching death in this follow-up to the 2017 original.

Director Jake Kasdan, who co-wrote the screenplay with Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg, has made, in spite of the sight gags about physical abilities and regenerated characters, a reflection on adult responsibilities, mortality and self-esteem. Dwayne Johnson and Karen Gillan are the most prominent of the avatars into whom the core cast of the kickoff (Alex Wolff, Morgan Turner, Ser’Darius Blain and Madison Iseman), among others, are transformed before embarking on a quest during which they take on the brutal leader (Rory McCann) of a violent empire. An old game, a familiar plot and eternal verities are a potent combination.

Intense action sequences, fleeting sexual references, three profanities, occasional crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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