Jumanji Movie Review


Jumanji Movie Review
My favorite scene

From Joe's Shelf


"A child gets trapped in a dangerous board game for twenty-six years, before being released to help two children finish the same game he started."

When this film was new (1995), I didn't much fall for the hype. Even back then, the visuals looked half-assed during the trailers. I finally saw it at a bargain matinee and was left mostly unimpressed. I've seen worse over the years, but Jumanji had potential for greatness that it truly never grasped. The idea itself is awesome, and there are plenty of moments that keep your attention. Yet for every cool thing, there's something weak that can't be ignored.

Where Steven Spielberg knew how to properly balance the shots between computer effects and animatronics for the animals in Jurassic Park, director Joe Johnston (Jurassic Park III) seems to go too long on either side, especially with the animatronics. There are scenes where the artificiality of the animals is so bad, that it completely took me out of the fantasy. The CGI for the most part (the stampedes in particular), looks surprisingly good on today's HD format. The musical score by James Horner (The Spiderwick Chronicles) is a bit of a toss up. When it settles for the drum-heavy jungle theme, the score rocks. However when it kicks into playful tones during goofy moments, the score sounds like a Home Alone rip off.

There is some fun action and interesting characters in Jumanji that makes it worth seeing every once in a while. Even though Robin Williams (Hook) is top-billed as the film's big star, he's maybe in half of it. The main stars (until Williams knocks them out of the way) are Kirsten Dunst (Bring It On) and Bradley Pierce (Return to Never Land), who start the game up and free Williams.

I would say that they're important to the story and movie itself, but all they get to do is whine about being bored and panic when each round of the game challenges them. Williams is funny in fits and starts. Half the time, he's a bitter brat that's pissed off that he lost almost half of his life to the game. We've all seen him with better material than this. Bonnie Hunt (Jerry Maguire) as Williams' old friend with a bit of a complex, is also held back from weak material. She makes her character work, but just barely.

David Alan Grier (Boomerang) as the town's deputy, is Jumanji's funniest character. It's just too bad that most of the film's focus doesn't include him. Another good one, is with Aussie actor Jonathan Hyde (The Mummy 1999) in a dual role. As Williams' prideful father, Hyde sells the part honestly. And as a big-game hunter from the game itself, Hyde deliciously revels in the role while he chases Williams down.

Highs- Character building in the past, the drums are beating, Williams rediscovers toilet paper, Van Pelt gets painted, Grier's car gets eaten, and the actual game itself.

Lows- The horribly bad CG monkeys, fake looking lions and spiders and crocs, just role the dice fast and be over with it, and most of the tests are quickly rushed through with little time for adventure.

Jumanji should have been a grander-scale adventure that stood up there with the classics. The funny thing is, I still like to put it on every couple of years. There's something about it that keeps it from going away. Me personally though, I love it's spin off film Zathura (2005) a whole lot more. That one did a bunch more things right. Why am I talking about it?! I'll just write a review for it sometime in the future.

Rating- 5.5 out of 10

Jumanji (1995)
PG | 1h 44min | Action, Adventure, Family | 15 December 1995 (USA)
When two kids find and play a magical board game, they release a man trapped for decades in it and a host of dangers that can only be stopped by finishing the game.

Director: Joe Johnston
Writers: Jonathan Hensleigh (screenplay), Greg Taylor (screenplay)
Stars: Robin Williams, Kirsten Dunst, Bonnie Hunt