Veteran film watches have become rather jaded when it comes to special effects or original storytelling. When Jumanji came out 20 years ago the special effects were of a quality we had not seen very often. Having it rereleased on blu-ray allows today’s movie fans to watch it and for us who are slightly older to come to the realization that in several ways Jumanji was ahead of its time.
Kid’s board games are supposed to be just that – child’s play. Not something in which every roll of the dice means life or death. With this board game family game night is never going to be the same. Way back in 1969 in small town New Hampshire young Alan Parrish (Adam Hann-Byrd – The Ice Storm, Little Man Tate) finds a strange board game called Jumanji. He and his father get into an argument and Alan decides to run away from home. Before he can do this and in front of his neighbour Sarah (Laura Bell Bundy – from television’s How I Met Your Mother) Alan is somehow sucked into the game and is never heard from again.
Twenty-six years later Nora Shepherd (Bebe Neurwith – from television’s Cheers) decides to purchase the long abandoned Parrish family house and turn it into a B&B. Moving in with Nora are her niece Judy (Kirsten Dunst – from television’s Fargo) and nephew Peter (Bradley Pierce – Beauty and the Beast, The Borrowers). One day they hear a strange noise coming from the attic. They go to investigate and find a board game called Jumanji. Intrigued they begin playing the game not knowing what they have actually done. Out of the game comes the long lost Alan Parrish (Robin Williams – Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society), who is now a grown man. Though they want to stop playing they soon realize that the only way to restore order is for one of them to win the game.
Originality is the calling card of Jumanji. It is filled with imagination and moments of juxtaposition. Meaning that it can be scary one moment and then warm and funny the next. Director Joe Johnston (Captain America: The First Avenger, Jurassic Park III) keeps a firm grip on everything and keeps things from going off the rails. There is a lot going on, but somehow he knows what level to keep it at so it doesn’t get to be too much. Attains escapism without falling off the cliff into ridiculous. All kinds a crazy things of the type that make up kids’ nightmares happens during the film from monkeys driving motorcycles to plants able to crush cars. The effects and art work have to be spot on or it won’t work. They have done the almost impossible in that they have brought what was usually only in cartoons or animated films to life…sort of.
A role like this – playing a man-child – is perfect for someone like Robin Williams. He built a career off doing this. The fact that he has to act somewhat childish at times while being serious and scary the next is well within his wheelhouse. Energy is required and Williams is well able to furnish it.
Special Effects Crew Commentary
Making Jumanji: The Realm of Imagination
Lions and Monkeys and Pods…Oh My!
Production Design: Bringing Down the House
Jungle Adventure: Virtual Board Game
Jumanji Motion Storybook as Read by Author Chris Van Allsburg
Jumanji: The Animated Series
The Cast of Goosebumps Reflects on Jumanji
Goosebumps Sneak Peek
Original Teasers and Trailers