I'd say this movie represents one of the rare instances in Hollywood where a sequel is actually better than the original. Hey pipe down you! I didn't say the first was bad. It was great. I've always loved it. And, come on, it had Robin Williams (no you don't get a link; you should know who he is) in it being . . . Robin Williams. And it had a good story. This installment has a very different feel to it. It traded the elements of horror for hilarity. It completely upended the man vs child dynamic. It held its own as its own story. Plus, the hat tip to the first was classy.
And the best part was that it in no way felt as if they were simply retelling the story you already knew. I mean imagine if someone just went and re-skinned A New Hope. How upset would that make most of us. Oh yeah, they did, didn't they? Well, I rest my case.
I'm sure anyone who saw the previews is aware that four teenagers (not so much) get sucked into a video game and must play as their avatars. And it almost seems as if the game deliberately tricked them into picking characters with ability sets alien to them. Mischievous magic box game thing. As they progress through the game they are forced to use these unfamiliar abilities and end up gaining some grudging respect for each other in the process.
Dwayne Johnson did a fantastic job playing a coward. Some of the funniest moments in the entire movie rested solely upon his face. And seeing him try to take up as little space as possible in a land rover is worth the admission fee all by itself.
Karen Gillan had probably the easiest role, simply having to play a rather mousy girl. I mean who hasn't been there right? Still, she nails the expressions of shock and delight as she realizes 'she is a bad-ass'.
Kevin Hart is hilarious as . . . well, Kevin Hart. It seems that this role was custom tailored towards his comedy. Even so its funny to see him try to puff himself up. And how did he teach himself to run that way?! I couldn't possibly run that way without falling over! It's like he's invented the Carlton of running.
Colin Hanks had only a short time in the movie. But in that short time I had several flashbacks to the 90s. Ah, Cindy Crawford . . . wait, where was I?
But the one person who stole the show was most definitely Jack Black. Now, I'm not a huge Jack Black fan. Most of his movies have seemed to be tailored for . . . well, not me. But seeing him absolutely nail being a flighty sixteen year old girl was both hilarious and perhaps a touch disturbing. I mean, how did he manage such a perfect facsimile? Every movement, every mannerism, even the way he speaks is perfect. If you don't believe me, just watch the entire movie again. But this time focus on Jack Black in the background. Its like a slightly creapy, yet hilarious easter egg running through the entire movie. The way I see it there are only two possibilities here. Either they had Madison Iseman walk through the scenes for him to emulate, or he has a bunch of sixteen year old girls locked in his basement . . . for study. I prefer to imagine the former possibility myself.
On top of this, the movie pulls no punches making fun of virtually every aspect of gaming, which, as a gamer myself, I truly enjoyed. Seriously, the only thing they missed on was tatooing EA on the villain somewhere. Or maybe having everything in the Bazaar be made by EA . . .
Initially I had issues with the idea that the teens would find a game console in the basement of the school, but a friend pointed out that the box says 'Donations' on it. I guess its possible that the parents simply donated everything to the school, but a line or two mentioning it would have cleared things up nicely. Then again, they had a single (new) bowling ball as well.
The plot was a fairly simple but a well executed treatise on dealing with the fear of failure. Ironically the only failure in its execution was the conclusion coming from Fridge, even after they tried to hang a lantern on it. Still it rates a solid 90% for me.