Directed by: Joe Johnston
Starring: Robin Williams, Kirsten Dunst, David Alan Grier, Bonnie Hunt, Jonathan Hyde, Bebe Neuwirth
Based on the children’s book of the same name, Jumanji is about a board game which manifests real objects depending on the players’ rolls. From large insects, to rhinos to a flooding, the game produces one near-death experience after another. Initially buried by two children, it was soon discovered by a young Alan Parrish (Adam Hann-Byrd) in a construction site, and he plays it with his school friend Sarah (Laura Bell Bundy), but one of Alan’s rolls forces him to be sucked into Jumanji world until a player rolls a 5 or an 8. Scares, Sarah runs away and the game is seemingly lost or forgotten about for over 20 years until Nora Shepherd (Bebe Neuwirth) buys the house to live in with her nephew, Peter (Bradley Pierce), and niece, Judy (Kirsten Dunst, The Beguiled), who discover the game and start playing. After rolling a five, Alan (now played by Robin Williams) is brought back from Jumanji world, and they track down Sarah (now played by Bonnie Hunt) so all four of them can finish the game and end the Jumanji curse.
This film is a whole lot of crazy fun. Robin Williams’ character is a nice bend of youthfulness with a special kind of wisdom, and it plays his family troubles brilliantly. He disappears not long after an argument with his father and upon returning discovers his parents’ death and it helps fully show the length of time (which is impressive as the first 20 minutes or so jump from one time to another, with three sets of people shown to have played the game in three times, it’s easy to forget how long it is between these spells). The thriving shoe factory his father owned is no-more and he encounters Carl (David Alan Grier), a former employee-turned-policeman, who was sacked due to one of his errors as a child. It all helps fully build his character, with a tragic story and the woman he loves while the fear of the board game, upon seeing it again, really comes to light.
However, Robin Williams’ performance, while not as amazing as some of his others, is about one of the only few that’s pretty decent in the film. The child actors are all pretty poor; almost forgetting at times the life-threatening game they are involved in, and I didn’t feel Bonnie Hunt was too good, despite her Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress. The writing is also very so-so, but has enough jokes and some character-building dialogue to prevent it suffering the same two-star score as acting. A lot of it is exposition, especially when trying to force everyone to finish the game, and a lot of time is spent slowly reading the game’s rhymes, which, while obviously needed, isn’t necessarily needed when the camera is zooming on the words being on the game.
Despite little errors, which in a film aimed predominantly at children aren’t the be-all-and-end-all of what’s needed, the film is still fun. The action scenes look very well done, as does the general presentation of most of the film (from the animals to the costume design to the locations). It certainly is a film that holds up even by today’s standards (although saying that I can now guarantee Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is going to somehow look vastly superior). Robin Williams is hilarious, as he is in most films he stars in, and the film is entertaining (especially the journey of Carl, whose car is destroyed bit-by-bit with every animal/thing that comes out of the Jumanji world. Here’s hoping our look into the Jumanji world in its sequel holds up to the standard (except for acting as a whole) set by Jumanji.
Plot: * * * Acting: * * Writing: * * * Presentation: * * * *