While I was watching this video, my mom walked into the
room to get something. She looked at the screen and asked,
"JUMANJI?" I replied, "No thanks, I just ate." I have no idea what
that's supposed to mean, of course, but it sounded nice enough.
And so did this movie, from the pictures and copy on the back of the
box. But when I actually watched JUMANJI, I found out it was far
from perfect. Jumanji is some kind of magic board game (not the
one where you take turns stacking blocks until they fall over -- that's
Jenga, soon to be a major motion picture) that lures children into
rolling the dice, by which point the only way to rid yourself of the
game's consequences is to finish.
Alan digs up the game outside his dad's shoe factory and
plays it one night his friend Sarah. It turns out when you roll the
dice a really bad poem comes up on the board. That's torture enough,
but after Sarah rolls, a couple hundred bats fly out. Alan rolls and
gets sucked into the game. Sarah runs away, screaming, and spends
the next twenty-six years of her lvince
herself the event never happened.
Then, in 1995, two kids who have just moved into the
mansion with their Aunt Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth, who could probably
help Sarah with the therapy) discover the magic of Jumanji. Judy
(Kirsten Dunst) rolls and three giant mosquitoes attack them. Peter
rolls and a bunch of computer-animated monkeys materialize to
destroy their kitchen. The kids then find out the rule about
having to finish the game and are therefore forced to continue
On the next roll, out comes a lion. Next comes Alan himself
(Robin Williams), now a fully-grown savage with a long beard and a
bushier mane than the lion. But he isn't homefree yet, he still has to
finish the game he started back in 1969, along with psychic friend
Sarah (Bonnie Hunt). That's when the real fun begins, as the game
spits out an English bounty hunter, a stampede, a monsoon
and -- worst of all -- a card reading "Go Directly to Jail; Do Not
Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200." That Uncle Pennybags is a
bastard, ain't he?
JUMANJI is a fairly decent action film weighted down by a
few key factors. First of all, Robin Williams shows none of his usual
manic charisma, playing with laughable seriousness the role of
someone trapped in a board game for over a quarter of a century.
Second, the special effects are just so damn fake-looking. In a
movie like this, as in JURASSIC PARK or TWISTER, the effects
are the main draw. Computer animation hasn't been this obvious
since that "Money For Nothing" video.
Finally, the ending is a complete sell-out. They spend at least
fifteen minutes trying to establish the happiest possible ending to the
game, one which involves time travel and knowledge of the future. If
the BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy has taught us anything, it's that
changing past events screws up the future, and the glaring
obviousness of the JUMANJI ending raises hundreds more
questions about the outcome of its characters than it answers.
I guess it's my fault for actually _thinking_ during the movie.
Copyright © 1996 Andrew Hicks