Jumanji

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1869, two boys bury a chest containing the sounds of beating drums outside a forest near Keene, New Hampshire. A century later, 12 year-old Alan Parrish flees from a group of bullies to the shoe factory owned by his father, Sam, where he meets his friend Carl Bentley, one of Sam’s employees. When Alan accidentally damages a machine with a prototype sneaker Carl hopes to present, Carl takes responsibility and loses his job. Outside the factory, after the bullies beat up Alan and steal his bicycle, Alan follows the sound of tribal drumbeats to a construction site and finds a chest containing a board game called Jumanji. Alan takes the game home and, after an argument with his father about attending a boarding school, decides to run away. However, his friend Sarah Whittle arrives, and the two begin playing Jumanji. When the dice are rolled, the player’s piece moves by itself and a cryptic message appears in a crystal ball in the center of the board. Alan’s first move causes him to get sucked into the game and a group of bats to appear that cause Sarah to flee.

Twenty-six years later, siblings Judy and Peter Shepherd move into the vacant Parrish house with their aunt Nora after losing their parents in a skiing accident the previous winter. Judy and Peter hear Jumanji’s drumbeats and play the game in the attic; they are attacked by giant mosquitoes and their kitchen is destroyed by a troop of monkeys. The game states that everything will be restored when it ends, so they continue playing despite the danger. Peter rolls, releasing both a lion and Alan, who is now an adult. Alan locks the lion in a bedroom, then heads to his father’s factory. On the way, he meets Carl, who is now working as a police officer. In the factory, now derelict, a homeless man reveals that Sam was distraught after Alan’s disappearance and abandoned the business to spend the rest of his life searching for his son. As an unintended consequence of the factory’s closure, the small town’s economy is now devastated.

Alan reluctantly agrees to watch while Judy and Peter continue playing, but soon realizes that Judy and Peter are playing the same game he and Sarah started, and therefore they will have to join in. Upon finding Sarah, who has isolated herself due to the mental trauma she suffered during Alan’s disappearance, the trio convince her to help finish the game. Sarah’s move releases fast-growing man-eating vines. Alan rolls and a big-game hunter named Van Pelt emerges, intending to kill Alan. Among other things, an animal stampede throughout the town; Peter gradually transforms into a monkey after attempting to cheat; Peter, Sarah, and Judy fight Van Pelt in a local department store after he steals the game from them to lure Alan to him; the group is overtaken by a monsoon flood with crocodile infested waters; Alan is sucked into the floor by quicksand; large spiders attack the group; Judy is fatally poisoned by a flower barb; and an earthquake destroys the house. Alan fortunately wins Jumanji when Van Pelt corners him, causing everything that has happened as a result of the game to be reversed and the jungle elements (along with Van Pelt) to get sucked back into the game in a sudden whirlwind.

Finding themselves back to when they started the game in 1969 as children, Alan and Sarah have full memories of later events. Alan reconciles with Sam and admits that he damaged the machine in the factory. Carl gets his job back, and Sam tells his son that he does not have to attend the boarding school. Alan and Sarah realize that Judy and Peter have not been born yet. The two chain bricks to the Jumanji board and throw it into a river before Sarah kisses Alan, thus the couple beginning a romantic relationship.

In 1994, Alan and Sarah are married and expecting their first child. Alan has taken over the shoe business, Carl still works in the factory as the plant supervisor, and Sam is retired, but still alive. Judy, Peter, and their parents meet with Alan and Sarah for the first time at a Christmas party, where Alan and Sarah offer Mr. Shepherd a job in the shoe company while convincing the couple to cancel their upcoming skiing trip to Canada, thereby preventing their deaths.

At a beach in another part of the world, two French-speaking young girls hear drumbeats while walking.

REVIEW:

Tonight, as I was sitting here eating dinner, I hear the news that the great Robin Williams had passed away. The circumstances of his death being what they are, I assumed it was a hoax (this was on Facebook, after all, where I learned of his untimely demise). So, I flip through the channels and E! actually had stopped showing that Kardashian show and was talking about him, also CNN was on the story. Turns out it was true. Since I was going to watch a movie tonight, I figured it best to do something that Williams starred in. Of the list that came up, the one that caught my attention the most was Jumanji.

What is this about?

When two siblings discover an enchanted board game that’s a portal to a magical world, they meet a man who’s been trapped inside the game for years.

What did I like?

Board games can be cool. This is the day and age of video games, let’s face it. Everyone plays games on their PS3, PS4, computers, phones, or those xbox abominations. Hell, when I finish typing this up, I’m going to play some Candy Crush! With that being said, when was the last time you heard someone talk about playing a board game? It is extremely rare, excluding the D & D nerds. One of the things about this film that makes it special is that it takes board games and makes them cool. Who wouldn’t want the thought of having what happens in the game to happen in real life, including consequences for cheating or not finishing the game! Wow! If only there would be a game like that in real life, I bet everyone would be playing it!

In Living Color. When this film was released, everyone had forgotten about David Alan Grier…and every cast member of In Living Color not in the Wayans family or Jim Carrey (this was before Jamie Foxx became a star and J-Lo hadn’t auditioned for Selena yet, if my timeline is right) had all disappeared. So, when Grier showed up in this film, it was a surprise. I remember doing a double take when I first saw him. Not because he’s a bad actor, it was just a shock to see him resurface in a major motion picture in a somewhat major role. He owns it and, while it is a bit more serious than he needs to be at times, it is a role that suits him…except for that afro in the 70s scenes. Yikes!

Man-child…excusably so. Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler get nothing but grief about playing manchildren in their movies, but if you look at Robin Williams’ body of work, mostly his comedies, obviously, he was doing the manchild thing, too. So, you can say they were just following his influence and lay off them! *AHEM* Back to Williams…much like Hook, here he gets to be both a man and a kid. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t really know much about being a man, seeing as how he was trapped in the game and had to raise himself for 26 years. There are just some things he missed about growing up, like learning to drive or shave.

What didn’t I like?

Mysterious magic. I am curious as to what this mysterious magic that enchants this board game is. Where did it come from? How is it able to be so wondrous and destructive? I would say that this was all described in the book, but no dice. As a matter of fact, this film is so far removed from the book, one can hardly say it is based on the book of the same name. With all the changes that were made, one would think they’d have found some way to say that maybe a voodoo priestess or something along those lines cursed the game and that is where all the magic comes from, but I guess that would have been too convenient, huh?

Hunter. Fairly early, a hunter is released from the game. What is so bad about him? Well, he seems to be the antagonist for the film, except he doesn’t really do anything but walk around spewing thing out in his bad stereotypical British accent, snarling the whole way. I felt that this guy could have been something more than just a throw away villain, especially since he’s not in the book so there are no confines to what he could be capable of. However, much like describing the magic that the game possesses, this was just a missed opportunity.

Seen better. In 1995, the special effects weren’t mind-blowing. Wait, a year or two before, Jurassic Park was released and, well, we all know how impressive those dinosaurs look, right? So, given the advancement in the use of CG that was happening, why do the animals look like dollar store graphics? What I mean by that is that they look cheap and rushed. Granted, it is 2014 and I may be looking upon them with “future eyes”, but I have seen better in films from this era in time and just can’t let that slide.

Here’s a little tidbit of information on Jumanji you may not have known. It has what they call a “spiritual sequel” in Zathura (both the book and film). Interesting, huh?

So, what did I ultimately think of this film? It has its flaws, obviously, but there is lots of fun to be had watching things come to life and threaten this small New England town. Drama to be had as Williams’ character embraces his problems with his father and becomes a man. Comedy ensues throughout the film, obviously. One major problem that I forgot to mention is how underused Bonnie Hunt is. It seems to me they could have done more with her character, but maybe that’s just me. All in all, though, I have to say that this is a good time to be had by all who watch. While it may not be Williams’ finest performances, it is a worthy way to remember a guy who brought so much joy to everyone. “Nanu Nanu” Do I recommend this? Yes, very highly. However, don’t expect some academy award-winning picture. This is just a good family adventure film. Nothing more, nothing less.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

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