"A game for those who seek to find
A way to leave their world behind"
The story starts off with two children in the 1800s out in the middle of the night attempting to bury a chest. The two young boys are obviously terrified and finish their task as quickly as possible. In the next scene, we are brought forward in time to the 1960s to a small town located in New England. Alan Parrish, the scion of a wealthy New England shoe manufacturer, is dissatisfied with his peers, his parents, and his place in life. His father's ancestors essentially built the town where Alan resides and most of the inhabitants work in his father's shoe factory. As a result, Alan is teased unmercilessly by the local children and feels isolated from his parents who do not seem to understand his problems. His father's factory is under construction to build a new building. The site of the construction excavation is where the two young boys earlier buried a chest. Alan, hearing deep throbbing drums, is drawn to the site and uncovers the chest. Within the chest is an ornately carved wooden game: Jumanji.
Alan decides to try out the game with Sarah, one of his few friends. Sarah and Alan are both more than a little taken aback when they roll the dice for the game and the game pieces move along the board themselves! A kind of smoky window in the middle of the board clears and a rhyme appears. While Alan and Sarah are trying to puzzle out the meaning of the rhyme, the room fills with all manner of jungle wildlife and Alan is sucked into the board game. Sarah, now extremely frightened, rushes out of the house and spends the next 20 years in therapy attempting to deny the events of that day.
Back in the 90s, the Parrish house has long been since deserted and a woman with her niece and nephew buys the house planning to turn it into a bed and breakfast place. The two children, Judy and Peter, investigate the attic of the house one day after hearing the deep throbbing drums in the night. They stumble across the game board and set down to play it. Unbeknowst to them, they are drawn into the game set into motion by Alan and Sarah 26 years previously. Luckily for Alan, the two kids are able to roll the correct combination of the dice that brings him back from the jungles of Jumanji, although he is now 26 years older. They realize that in order to set the world to rights they must find the other member of the game, Sarah, and finish the game to the end. This results in some fantastic adventures and sights such as the quiet little New England town had never before seen. Only, of course, until Jumanji!
|Older Alan Parrish (Robin Williams)||Young Alan Parrish (Adam Hann-Byrd)|
|Older Sarah (Bonnie Hunt)||Younger Sarah (Laura Bell-Bundy)|
|Jane (Kirsten Dunst)||Peter (Bradley Pierce)|
|Officer Bentley (David Alan Grier)||Van Pelt (Jonathan Hyde)|
|Aunt Nora (Bebe Neuwirth)|
It's been years since I've seen a Robin Williams' flick that I haven't enjoyed and this one, in the same family spirit as Mrs. Doubtfire is no exception. Robin Williams, in addition to being an extremely gifted comedian, does a wonderful job in portraying the older Alan Parrish. As well, Bonnie Hunt, the older Sarah, while probably not providing an Oscar performance, does a credible job of showing a woman whose entire life was dramatically and traumatically changed in a half-hour encounter with the Jumanji game in her childhood.
Since it would not be feasible to actually have real monkeys, rhinos, elephants, and zebras running through the middle of town, wonderful visual effects and animation were provided by George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic team, while like-like puppets were provided by Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc. My only complaint, and I think this would be difficult to circumvent even given the state of computer animation today, was with the monkeys, which did not quite look realistic.
Character development in the movie seems consistent with patterns that appear in real life. For example, Alan Parrish starts off as a boy and when he is freed from Jumanji, he appears as a wildman, but manages after a bit of time to adjust himself to a changed modern world and become the leader of the foursome in their quest to reach Jumanji. Sarah, tragically scarred by her original encounter with the game, slowly comes out of her shell and learns to accept the past and to look forward to a future in which all parts of her are at peace.
The movie is based on a story of the same name by author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg, which won the Randolph Caldecott Medal. The story and its subsequent transformation to the screen was successful and the only lingering question is: why didn't the children in the 1800s set fire to the game or in some other way destroy it physically, and why didn't the kids roll those dice a lot faster? It seems logical that the faster you play, the sooner you reach Jumanji!
This is a great film for young and old, or for the old who are young at heart. It has love, it has adventure, it has monsters, it has battles, and it has comedy. There's sure to be something to please everyone. A definite family pleaser for a Sunday afternoon outing to the movies or renting something to keep the kids quiet for a while. As such, I give it five stars out of five. Enjoy!
Michelle A. Hoyle
Jumanji, Last Updated: February 15th, 1996
Don't forget to try out Sony's Jumanji game online for prizes!