Friday, July 17, 2015

Movie #318: Jumanji

Jumanji is a 1995 family comedy starring Robin Williams, Bonnie Hunt, Kirsten Dunst, Bradley Pierce, and Jonathan Hyde. It's what I refer to as a "chips n' salsa" movie; I'm happy to watch it and snack, but it's ultimately pretty forgettable. My kids like it, though.

Anyway: Young Alan Parrish (Adam Hann-Byrd), after a rough day of getting the shit kicked out of him by bullies after his father (Hyde) gives him the old "face your fears!" routine, plays a board game he found buried in a lock chest (you can tell this kid isn't an RPG player) in a construction site, along with his crush, Sarah (Laura Bell Bundy). On his turn, he is sucked into the game, and Sarah freaks out and runs just because some bats try to eat her.

Twenty-six years later, the old Parrish mansion is bought by a young woman (Bebe Neuwirth) and her niece and nephew (Dunst and Pierce, respectively), children of her late brother. They find the game and start playing, releasing Parrish, now grown (and Robin Williams!), and they go find Sarah, now grown (and Bonnie Hunt!). The game releases rhinos, giant mosquitos, killer plants (we'll get to L soon!) and all kinds of other whacky shit, including an 18th century great white hunter (also Hyde) who wants to shoot and kill Alan.

Of course they finish the game, and since all the consequences vanish once the game ends, we're back in 1969 with young Alan and Sarah. But they remember their lessons up through the years, eventually marrying and saving the lives of their young friends' parents, which, as Cracked points out, would make for a pretty interesting movie on its own.

So, it's not terrible. It's a pretty good argument for practical effects because the CGI was never convincing and it looks like crap now, and it's Robin Williams at his most family friendly, so that's kind of dull. The "lessons" of the movie are kind of muddled, because "stand up to your fears" is an objectively stupid lesson at every turn (whenever Alan does it, someone either punches him or shoots at him), but the really fun bit of the movie is when the characters roll the dice and then a rhymed couplet emerges and fucks everything up. I do wonder if the remake, Zathura, is any better, but I haven't seen it.

My Grade: C
Rewatch value: Medium, maybe medium-high if the kids are around and there are chips

Next up: The Jungle Book