Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Review: "Jumanji" Holds Onto its Charms (Happy B'day, Joe Johnston)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 26 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Jumanji (1995)
Running time:  104 minutes (1 hour, 44 minutes)
MPAA – PG for menacing fantasy action and some mild language
DIRECTOR:  Joe Johnston
WRITERS:  Jonathan Hensleigh, Greg Taylor, and Jim Strain; from a screenstory by Chris Van Allsburg, Greg Taylor, and Jim Strain (based upon the book by Chris Van Allsburg)
PRODUCERS:  Scott Kroopf and William Teitler
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Thomas Ackerman (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Robert Dalva
COMPOSER:  James Horner

FANTASY/ADVENTURE/FAMILY with elements of action and comedy

Starring:  Robin Williams, Jonathan Hyde, Kirsten Dunst, Bradley Pierce, Bonnie Hunt, Bebe Neuwirth, David Alan Grier, Patricia Clarkson, Adam Hann-Byrd, and Laura Bundy

The subject of this movie review is Jumanji, a 1995 fantasy adventure and family film directed by Joe Johnston.  The film is based on the Caldecott Medal-winning children’s picture book, Jumanji, which was first published in 1981 and was written and drawn by author Chris Van Allsburg.  This was the first of three films based on Van Allsburg’s books (as of this updated review).  Jumanji the movie focus on two children who must help a strange man finish playing a magical board game.

In 1969, Alan Parrish (Adam Hann-Byrd) and his friend Sarah Whittle (Laura Bundy) find an old board game, a jungle adventure called Jumanji, in Alan’s attic.  After rolling the dice, Alan somehow unleashes some kind of magical force and is sucked into the board game.  In 1995, two other children, Judy (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter Shepherd (Bradley Pierce) find the cursed board game and play it, unwittingly releasing the man-child, Alan (Robin Williams).

However, the game Alan began 26 years ago must be finished.  Also, from the bowels of Jumanji’s magical board, comes a stampeding horde of jungle creatures and a fearsome huntsman, Hunter Van Pelt (Jonathan Hyde), who has stalked Alan for decades.  Now, Alan joins the adult Sarah (Bonnie Hunt) in a magical adventure to save the town and end the game.

Even back in 1995, the computer generated images (CGI) for the film Jumanji seemed too obviously fake.  Many of the film’s scenes required animals of various sizes (giraffes, elephants, rambunctious monkeys) to run through, run over, and destroy the streets, homes, and buildings of a small township.  Getting that many live animals to cooperate would have been a logistical nightmare and likely impossible, so CGI animals were used.  The artificial animals all have a bluish tint on their bodies, heightening the sense of unreality.  The glitch was perfect; that the animals look so artificial could be taken to imply that the animals are part of a fantastical and magical nightmare.

Otherwise, the film is a fairly well directed and well-acted comic fantasy/adventure.  Robin Williams is, of course, his usual manic self, but this time it’s the franticness of an almost-action hero, rather than that of some attention-seeking clown.  It’s a fun family picture full of inspired zaniness, with very good performances from the entirety of the supporting cast, especially from the young cast.  I’ve seen it several times.  It’s silly, and the script bounces from one scene to another, but I recommend it as an excellent adventure film for the young and young at heart.

6 of 10

Updated:  Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

No comments:

Post a Comment