Seriously, who would have thought that a Robin Williams driven family adventure film would tackle issues such as PTSD, a struggling father-son relationship dynamics, and childhood trauma?
Synopsis: 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. (IMDB)
Starring: Robin Williams, Kirsten Dunst, and Bonnie Hunt
Writers: Jonathan Hensleigh, Greg Taylor, and Jim Strain
Director: Joe Johnston
Rating: PG (Canada/United States)
Running Time: 104mins
Jumanji is mainly the story of Alan Parrish (Williams), a grade-school boy born into an insanely wealthy family who struggles with bullies and his aggressive dad who preaches his conservative “take everything like a man” philosophy that doesn’t bode well for little Alan. This relationship is about the only interesting thing in the film. Once Alan faces off against his bullies, he stumbles upon the board game Jumanji and gets sucked into the game for 26 years and bang we have a movie.
There’s understandably a lot of nostalgia that hovers over this movie, made even more prevalent with Robin Williams’ death, but watching Jumanji in 2017 is tough because it’s just not that good of a movie. Most of the computer special effects are horrible. Please don’t get me started on the atrocity that is the CGI monkeys. The supposed comic relief of the animal kingdom is in the movie so damn much, with none of the humour being even remotely funny (unless you’re below the age of seven) that it felt more like being tortured than watching a fun adventure film.
Speaking of adventure in Jumanji, it all just feels so repetitive. Every new challenge that the game presents our characters is the same thing with a different coat of paint. “Oh no! Something new is chasing us!” “Oh no! We lost the board game and have to get it back!” “Haha we got it back!” “Oh no! We lost it again.” The repetitiveness becomes apparent early which makes every scene start to feel stale. There are also many logic gaps that are sprung up towards the end of the movie like why does Van Pelt’s bullet and gun disintegrate when he actually bought it from the real world? Why do Alan and Sarah (Hunt) go back to 1969? Apparently Jumanji is so powerful it can erase 26 years of history. The forced romance between Alan and Sarah shouldn’t even be discussed (because it’s bad).
Despite all its faults, Jumanji does still have some positives. For one, a young Kirsten Dunst as Judy Shepherd (does anybody remember she was actually in this movie?) and Bradley Pierce as Peter Shepherd actually carry some emotion in their roles, not a lot, but good enough for child actors. Williams also plays his off-kilter manic energy mixed with subtle pathos effectively. Jonathan Hyde as Van Pelt is probably the best part of the movie, as he steals every scene he’s in. His best bit is when he goes to purchase a new gun from shady dealers. It actually parallels the United States current gun control regulations really well. By far the smartest thing that Jumanji succeeds in is making Van Pelt the manifestation of Alan’s picture of his father which gives some much needed emotional weight to the film.
Overall, Jumanji is just not as good as you remember it. If you’re nostalgic about it, definitely give it a watch before seeing the new one. For everyone else: it’s not worth revisiting.
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