Snakes and Ladders
The year is 1969 and Alan Parrish (Adam Hann-Byrd) discovers an ancient chest buried in the dirt of a construction site containing an equally ancient board game called "Jumanji". On taking it home Alan starts to play getting young friend Sarah Whittle (Laura Bell Bundy) to join in. But something strange happens when first African bats appear from out of the game and then Alan is sucked into it. 26 years later and Judy (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter Shepherd (Bradley Pierce) move into the old Parrish home with their aunt Nora (Bebe Neuwirth) and after hearing strange tribal drums coming from the attic they discover the old board game. When they start to play they release all manner of crazy things including a grown up Alan (Robin Williams).
Did the monkeys really look that creepy and fake? It is the question I found myself asking when revisiting "Jumanji" for the first time in well over a decade. Thankfully the questionable CGI primates was the only thing which really bothered me because aside from that the rest of Jumanji" is as much fun and as imaginatively daft as I remembered it. In fact being older and hopefully wiser watching "Jumanji" became a new experience as little things such as parts of the soundtrack and the actual story of Alan Parrish now reminded me of other movies allowing the inspiration to reveal itself.
So as I said "Jumanji" is still the entertaining and imaginative movie I pretty much remember it to be but strangely I'd forgotten that it seems to take an age to get going. We first get taken back to a long time ago when 2 boys bury the chest containing "Jumanji", then we have a series of scenes in 1969 which establish that Alan feels unloved and is suffering being bullied by other kids and then we have the whole Judy and Peter Shepherd back story of losing their parents. I didn't keep track of the time but I wouldn't be surprised if half an hour elapsed before we get to what is really the main story of Judy and Peter playing Jumanji and releasing all sorts of strange things, including a bearded Alan Parrish, into the world.
Now the thing is that "Jumanji" is very simple and after all that back story what actually follows is little more than comedy chaos as we have all manner of things released from the board game. So we have monkeys, which as already mentioned look more fake and creepy than I remember but also poisonous bugs, stampeding wild animals as well as a big white hunter and what happens are basically those playing the game avoiding danger so they can complete it in order to bring an end to the chaos. And that is really it, oh there is a little bit of pleasantry as Alan discovers that his father really did love him and we get a bit of nostalgic magic but otherwise "Jumanji" is that simple.
What I didn't realise when I watched "Jumanji" over a decade a go is certain elements appear to have been influenced by other movies. Take Judy and Peter, they are in many ways the archetype family movie siblings, think "Mary Poppins" or "Jurassic Park" and Judy and Peter maybe different actors but they are for all sense and purpose the same kids. Then there is Alan Parrish's story of him disappearing for 26 years; well it is a little similar to "Flight of the Navigator" although not too similar that it is just a copy. And you can add to that the James Horner musical score which has a reoccurring melody which is very similar to the one he used in "An American Tail". All these little things reveal themselves now where I never noticed them a decade a go.
Aside from that, well whilst "Jumanji" also features Kirsten Dunst, Jonathan Hyde and Bonnie Hunt it is fair to say it is Robin Williams' movie. It is Robin Williams' crazy antics, his running around like a lunatic and basically acting like a little kid which provides the majority of the humour. And in fairness it still works and whilst "Jumanji" is not one of his best movies it still is a fun performance.
What this all boils down to is that "Jumanji" is still a fun movie with a lot of crazy comedy with Robin Williams at the centre of it. There are some aspects which are not as good as I remembered but it is still worth a watch just for the fact it is all so innocent and inoffensive.