A Movie for Those Who Seek to Find a Way to Leave Their World Behind
Believe it or not, even after 20 years of reviewing, there are still some things I have never got around to writing a review for. One of those is the original Jumanji, which is a surprise to me since I have enjoyed it since the first time I watched it back when it was in the theater. And every time I watch it, I’m reminded why I like it so much.
The movie tells the story of a board game. A very dangerous board game. After opening in 1969, the movie quickly moves to the modern (at least when the movie came out) setting of 1995 as two kids, Judy and Peter Shepherd (Kirsten Dunst and Bradley Pierce) find the game in the attic of the house their aunt Nora (Bebe Neuwirth) has just bought. When they start to play it, they make a horrible discovery, the game is bringing danger to life around them. With the help of two adults they meet along the way, Alan Parrish (Robin Williams) and Sarah Whittle (Bonnie Hunt), they attempt to finish the game. But will they survive?
I actually realized when I sat down to write this review how hard it is to talk about the movie without spoilers. Or maybe that’s just me. I know the story so well, I take it for granted and almost posted some spoilers without thinking about it at all. Anyway, fans of the movie will look at my recap and scratch their heads because it doesn’t really capture the magic of the movie.
And the movie is magic. This is movie that brings a jungle to a small New Hampshire town, and no one is prepared for the insanity that results. As a viewer, I just recommend that you hang on and enjoy the ride. Don’t worry, the story is logical and holds up very well to repeated viewing. I’m just saying that you get so caught up in the action that you won’t have time to think.
Action is the key word here. Even more than the sequels, this is a movie filled with action and danger. It really gets the adrenaline pumping. Even though the movie is rated PG, you will want to think about whether your kids can handle it or not before you sit down to watch it with them. It’s scary in a PG way, but it might be too intense for those who are easily frightened.
I’m sure you are thinking, but the movie stars Robin Williams and Bonnie Hunt. How can it be that scary with these two comedians leading the cast? Don’t worry, there are plenty of laughs along the way. The film is actually a pretty good blend of comedy and high action. There are multiple scenes that are funny mixed in with the suspense. As you’d expect, sometimes, it’s just a line delivery or facial expression that conveys some comedy as the danger is building.
And the cast is great. This is young Kirsten Dunst, and it is easy to see why she’s had a successful career. I’m a bit surprised that Bradley Pierce hasn’t had a career to match hers based on his performance here. Robin Williams and Bonnie Hunt are fantastic. I have to give a shout out to David Ala Grier as a cop who gets caught up in the action as well. His reactions to various things are hilarious.
This movie came out in 1995, two years after Jurassic Park, and uses the same mix of practical effects and early computer-generated effects. At times, some of the effects show their age, especially if you are watching the movie in 4K, but for the most part, they hold up. And, honestly, I’m willing to let that go because I get so caught up in the film.
If you’ve somehow missed Jumanji, you need to fix that now. This is a movie that I can watch again and again and enjoy it every time I do.