Jumanji – 3 out of 5
It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Jumanji but, at one point when it came out, it was a movie I would watch every so often—until I got my first date and had no need to watch it anymore. That’s right; I stopped watching it when I turned 27. My pathetic love life aside, it’s actually been awhile since I’ve watched the 1995 film about a dangerous board game based on a kid’s book of the same name. I decided to revisit it and wanted to see if one of the film’s that was on the frontline of computer effects holds up to the test of time.
|In fairness, being out of breath and all wet is how Robin Williams typically looks|
after he gets done on stage.
In case you are too young or actively avoid all properties containing Robin Williams, Jumanji is a story about Alan Parrish (Williams) who, with his friend Sarah Whittle (Bonnie Hunt), started to play a board game he found buried in the ground called Jumanji back in the late 60s. They quickly discovered that everything that happens in the game manifest itself in the real world. After an unfortunate turn of the die, Alan is sucked into the game and into the jungles that reside there until someone rolls a certain number. Sarah is too frightened to continue and flees. Several decades later, the game is rediscovered by the new residents of the house; Judy and Peter Shepherd (Kirsten Dunst and Bradley Pierce), and after unleashing some mischievous monkeys, killer mosquitoes and a hungry lion, they inadvertently release Alan from his jungle prison and now, in order to stop the dangers unleashed they need to finish the game.
|This is Alan. In a different time, he would have resorted to cutting himself and |
listening to ICP to get the ire of his father rather than play a board game.
Thanks to this movie, I yell “Jumanji” really loud every time my cat gets wild and starts tearing up the joint like that will somehow solve the problem but, like every time I do something I learned from movies, I’m proven wrong (thanks, movies).
|However, movies have yet to prove to me that there isn't a beard out there that|
Williams can't rock.
Going back, I found that Jumanji wasn’t one of those movies where the memories are better than the actual product. The story is still a great family friendly one (I’m not sure why I believed the story would change) and the special effects more or less hold up decently. In 1995, computer effects weren’t as common as they are now and having a movie with these types of special effects was just starting to come into their own and, believe it or not, this film was one of those at the frontlines. Two years after bringing dinosaurs to life in Jurassic Park, Industrial Light & Magic used their computer sorcery (and believe me, I’m sure there are some members of The Tea Party who think wizard magic is involved with computer effects. Spelling is something they’ve yet to get a grasp on yet) to bring to life rampaging zebras, elephants and rhinos, carnivorous plants and just downright asshole monkeys that will rifle through your shit and possibly try and sleep with your girlfriend.
|An 80s comedian would make a joke involving women and a shoe sale.|
Watching the film now, some of the effects hold up quite well (the stampeding animals rampaging through the house looks quite nice) but some elements aren’t as strong. For example, those horrible monkeys are horrible in more ways than one…
|And they're eating all the food in the fridge that clearly has my name on it.|
It’s easy to pick on the bad special effects of the monkeys but when you consider it’s still leaps and bounds above all the crap Asylum puts out there (they are the company that makes the copy cat Direct-to-DVD films of more popular blockbusters like Transmorphers, Mega-Piranha and the Shakespearian Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus). And this movie wasn’t all just CG but a mix of practical effects thrown in. For example, the lion used in the film was both CG and an animatronic puppet…and the robot lion looks cool. Toss in some great animal sound-effects (seriously, the lion’s growl just sounds amazing!) and the fact the film was made when computer effects were still a new thing the effect stands up pretty decently when compared to how far we’ve come with special computer effects.
|"Hey everybody, it's cool. Aslan is here to save us--ARGHHHH!!!"|
In all honesty, Jumanji doesn’t do much wrong as a family friendly film. The movie is innocent fun and is one of Robin Williams’ most subdued non-drama roles. In fact, the entire cast does their job quite well. Jonathan Hyde pulls double duty and plays both Alan’s father and the great white hunter (pith helmet included); Van Pelt, who is out to kill Alan because he had the unfortunate luck to roll the dice and get this outcome.
|I am 100% positive I can pull off a pith helmet.|
Obviously there is some symbolism about how Van Pelt and Alan’s dad are played by the same guy and the fact that Alan feels his dad didn’t care about him and Van Pelt is out to kill him—so there’s that…
|And at one point he become FABULOUS!!!|
Also, this film was made at a time before Kirsten Dunst became an actress who is “lovingly” referred to as Snaggletooth and at a time where her acting was somewhat memorable—even though she’s not the most amazing in this film but she’s not a total wash. It’s not like she’s destroying an iconic love interest to a very famous arachnid-based superhero and playing the character in the exact OPPOSITE in which we’ve come to know and love the character from the years she was in the comics.
|"I can't wait to destroy a beloved Spider-man character."|
Bonnie Hunt even does a great job as the adult version of the traumatized Sarah Whittle trying to deal with what she thought was a murder of her friend but turned out that the shit she saw as a kid was real, despite the insane amount of money and time she used to convince herself the board game never existed in the first place. Hell, even David Alan Grier does a somewhat decent job in the film and isn’t as annoying or hammy as he is in other products he’s been in. However, that could be due to the fact he used up all his scenery chewing and failed attempts at being funny in the Pauly Shore film In the Army Now which came out the year before.
|Ohhhh. So that's how they got the name for the movie. It all makes sense now.|
Revisiting Jumanji after spending a decade plus not watching it, I realized the film holds up pretty well in the effects department and entertainment realm. The movie isn’t spectacular but I don’t remember feeling it was when I first watch it. It made the list of films to watch with my kids if I decide to reproduce or have a clone of myself produced.