Jumanji: The Next Level continues the Jumanji franchise, pushing it into a new direction, and revisiting it’s past in more ways than one. With this continuation comes plenty of nods and mentions that relate to the cast, their in-universe characters, previous Jumanji films, and other films altogether. Here is our list of Jumanji: The Next Level’s Best Easter Eggs, References, and Cameos.
The restaurant ‘Nora’s’’ is mentioned several times throughout Jumanji: The Next Level, and at first, may appear to be simply the new name for Eddie and Milo’s former restaurant. But the more eagle-eyed Jumanji fans may have seen it as a reference to Bebe Neuwirth’s Aunt Nora from the original 1995 Jumanji movie. Nora adopted her niece and nephew, Judy and Peter after their parents died and moves them into the old Parish family house, this leads to them continuing the game of Jumanji that Alan Parish and Sarah Whittle began in 1969 (and what led to Alan being trapped inside Jumanji).
But what seems like a subtle and clever nod to the character eventually turns into a fully blown cameo at the very end. Where Bebe Neuwirth makes her return to the Jumani franchise as Nora. In the now altered timeline where her brother and sister-in-law didn’t die during a skiing vacation in Canada she didn’t adopt her niece and nephew and move into the Parish household – instead buying the restaurant from Eddie and Milo fifteen years before the events of Jumanji: The Next Level.
In Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle the in-game characters were introduced with a brief and very video-game description, but little else. The Next Level takes that ever so slightly further, by giving a brief flashback to Dr Bravestone’s origins. Like any good hero, Bravestone’s early days are steeped in tragedy, namely the loss of his parents. With the movie’s villain Jurgen the Brutal, played by Game of Thrones’ Rory McCann, being their murderer. Although the subject matter is a little grim, it features a hilarious appearance of Dwayne Johnson in a wig and moustache as Bravestone’s father.
One of the new avatars for inside the Jumanji world is Awkwafina’s Ming Fleetfoot, a small thief who Spencer inhabits rather than the intended Bravestone. Eventually, Spencer and Grandpa Eddie (who gets Bravestone this time) switch and the Eddie version of Ming is responsible for stealing back the jewel. The scene that follows sees Ming lowered into a circular room on a rope in the style of the much-homaged Mission: Impossible scene.
Ser’Darius Blain’s Anthony ‘Fridge’ Johnson is an American Football player who is struggling with the grades to keep him on the team in the first movie. By The Next Level, it appears he overcame this and now plays football for a college team. He wears a necklace with the number 94, which is a reference to Dwayne Johnson’s football career, where he wore the number 94.
RIGS: Mechanized Combat League
In Spencer’s room, there is a poster for the PlayStation VR game RIGS: Mechanized Combat League. The game sees the player don a large mech suit, and face off in several modes. Although relatively subtle it’s notably a poster for a game in which the player puts themselves into a virtual reality where they have a new much more powerful body, echoing the theme of both Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Jumanji: The Next Level.
Although never in live-action Ostiriches have appeared in the world of Jumanji via the animated series, with one episode showing Aunt Nora transformed into an ostrich. They then play a large role in The Next Level serving as the villainous attackers to Martha, Fridge, Eddie, and Milo as they first arrive in the sandy Dunes area of Jumanji. They appear again later during the mid-credits scene.
Baby, I Love Your Way
One of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’s most memorable scenes is where Karen Gillan’s Ruby Roundhouse utilises her ‘Dance Fighting’ ability to beat up some henchmen accompanied by ‘Baby, I Love Your Way’ by Big Mountain. The scene worked well on its own, but thanks to the old school cassette player also felt reminiscent of Guardians of the Galaxy, another series that perfectly utilises music and also stars Karen Gillan. As The Next Level draws to close the heroes are surrounded by numerous enemies, but Fridge (as Mouse Finbar) takes a cassette player from his backpack and plays Baby, I Love Your Way activating her Dance Fighting ability, helping her to defeat almost everyone there on her own.
The Rope Bridge
One of Jumanji: The Next Level’s biggest set pieces involves a vicious horde of Mandrills chasing the heroes across a series of rope bridges. It ends with the Grandpa Eddie version of Bravestone cutting the rope bridge to slow the attacking Mandrills. The scene serves as another homage to Indiana Jones, specifically the scene also on a rope bridge where the hero cuts it with a large knife…
The character of Dr Bravestone is in himself an Indiana Jones homage, also being a famed and heroic archaeologist, wearing a similar outfit and being almost impossibly heroic.
Zathura: A Space Adventure
Jon Favreau’s Zathura: A Space Adventure from 2005 was widely cited as a spiritual successor to Jumanji despite Favreau himself stating it wasn’t a real sequel. The main connections, however, are the thematic touchstones, and of course also being based on a book from Chris Van Allsburg, just like Jumanji.
That said Jack Black stated on one of his JablinksiGames Blog posts (actually titled ‘Jumanji 4’) that The Next Level was the fourth movie in the franchise, with Zathura being the second. Although not a full official confirmation, the studio marketed Zathura as such, and if anyone would know about how the franchise is considered to the studio (and where it’s headed next) it would be one of its main stars.
Game of Thrones
The movie’s villain Jurgen the Brutal is played by Rory McCann who starred as Lurch in Hot Fuzz, but most famously Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane in Game of Thrones. In the climactic showdown between Bravestone and Jurgen, the scene ends in Bravestone diving at Jurgen so that both fall from the blimp. The scene mirrors the showdown between The Mountain and The Hound in the finale of Game of Thrones. Admittedly given when each was likely filmed this might not line up with the scene being an actual reference, and perhaps just a coincidence – but it’s an interesting link between the two nonetheless.
Jumanji in the Real World (Again)
One of Jumanji: The Next Level’s most interesting parts is it’s ending. After promising never to go into the world of Jumanji again, the heroes find that they won’t have to, with a mid-credits scene showing Lamore Morris approaching the partially reconstructed Jumanji game. The scene then cuts to the outside of Nora’s with a herd of ostriches running past. Not only does this set up an interesting follow-up, where the characters will have to take on the trials of Jumanji in their own bodies (rather than those of their avatars), but could perhaps meet the ‘true’ versions of the in-game characters, and more importantly brings the franchise full circle echoing the plot of the original movie.
For more on the movie, other than Jumanji: The Next Level’s Best Easter Eggs, References, and Cameos, check out our thoughts on How Jumanji: The Next Level Brings the Franchise Back to Where it Began