Tuesday 18 June 2013

Jumanji (1995)

Welcome to the jungle.

Thanks to a mix of great special effects (okay, they don't hold up quite so well nowadays, but they still do a good job), fun performances and a few good one-liners, Jumanji remains an enjoyable family movie that warns everyone against the perils of boardgames.

Jumanji, for the uninitiated, is a boardgame that allows players to pretend that they're avoiding dangers in a jungle environment. The only problem with playing the game is that it really DOES provide those dangers. Robin Williams plays Alan Parrish, a man who was sucked into the game as a small boy and has spent years living in the jungle. He is finally released when young Judy and Peter Shepherd (Kirsten Dunst and Bradley Pierce, respectively) find the game and decide to have a go themselves. With Alan back in the real world and the jungle also spilling out one dice roll at a time, it becomes essential to finish the game. That means getting hold of Sarah Whittle (Bonnie Hunt), the woman who was once the young girl so shocked by Alan's departure into the game many years ago. Things are about to get wilder with every roll of the dice.

Based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg, it may have taken a few writers (Jonathan Hensleigh, Greg Taylor and Jim Strain) to craft the final screenplay, but the whole thing is nicely handled by director Joe Johnston, balancing some wonderful dialogue with exciting action moments and genuine tension. Kids should enjoy the movie though, be warned, those of a sensitive nature may find it a bit too intense at times, especially if they don't like spiders or mischievous monkeys or roaring lions or creeping, strangling vines.

As well as being packed with great CGI (and it certainly helped show just what was possible when it was released in 1995), the film boasts a top-notch cast including those already mentioned in the lead roles (and Williams is great at the man-child schtick so his performance is guaranteed entertainment, in my opinion), David Alan Grier as a police officer who also remembers the time when young Alan Parrish disappeared, Jonathan Hyde as both an intimidating father figure and also an intimidating, and relentless, hunter, Patricia Clarkson as Alan's mother and Bebe Neuwirth as the guardian of the Shepherd children.

It may give your children a great excuse to use when you tell them to switch off their videogame systems and spend time with more traditional entertainment instead, but this is a fun time for all, especially if you pair it up with Zathura, another movie based on a Chris Van Allasburg book that also focuses on a very special boardgame.



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