By Christopher Null
If nothing else, Jumanji is the most unfortunately titled film of the year. And if you haven't turned on your television in the last month you may still be among the few who don't know what it means. For the uninitiated, Jumanji is an ancient board game set in the spooky jungle. When the game is played, it causes supernatural things to happen, including the creation of a horde of monkeys, earthquakes, a monsoon (indoors), and a stampede through the suburbs of the New England town in which Jumanji is set.
The story begins some 26 years earlier, when young Alan (Robin Williams) and Sarah (Bonnie Hunt) unearth the game and start playing. On Alan's first move, he finds himself sucked into the game as a prisoner, only to be released when the game is continued in 1995 by Judy (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter (Bradley Michael Pierce). Unfortunately, the ill effects of the game disappear only when it is finished, so the three track down Sarah, who, after years of therapy, has finally come to grips with the shock of seeing Alan vanish, and they continue where they left off.
The rest of the film unfurls the wacky effects the game has on the players and the town, until the climactic conclusion is reached. Unfortunately, along the way, the film fails miserably at building up any semblance of suspense (it's pretty obvious how this thing is going to end), and relies on melodrama to try to make us care about the characters, resulting in a sloppy, over-dramatic plot that doesn't really get going for half an hour. Even the precocious kids are basically annoying. While much of the film is funny and pleasant to watch, the overall result is a middling success.
But you don't go to a movie like this for the gripping plot, and everyone's question is, "How are the effects?" Well, they're not so great. Compared to the groundbreaking Toy Story, Jumanji looks downright embarrassing. Few of the computer-generated animals, especially the plastic-looking monkeys, come across as even remotely realistic, although the filmmakers really seem to have tried their best. Apparently, the technology just isn't ready yet.
In the end, Jumanji looks like it wanted to be the next Roger Rabbit--a semi-animated film for the whole family. But in taking things too seriously, the movie lacks that ingenious, eye-opening "spark" that's absolutely critical here, and it ends up being another film that's basically just for kids.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 15th December 1995
Box Office Worldwide: $262.8M
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Production compaines: TriStar Pictures, Interscope Communications, Teitler Film
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
Fresh: 16 Rotten: 16
Cast & Crew
Starring: Robin Williams as Alan Parrish, Kirsten Dunst as Judy Sheperd, Jonathan Hyde as Samuel Alan Parrish / Van Pelt, Bonnie Hunt as Sarah Whittle, Patricia Clarkson as Carol Anne Parrish, Gillian Barber as Mrs. Thomas the Realtor, Laura Bell Bundy as Sarah Whittle (young), Adam Hann-Byrd as Alan Parrish (young), Bradley Pierce as Peter Shepherd, Bebe Neuwirth as Nora Shepherd, David Alan Grier as Carl Bentley, Brandon Obray as Benjamin, Cyrus Thiedeke as Caleb, Gary Joseph Thorup as Billy Jessup, James Handy as Exterminator