Wednesday, January 4, 2012

At the Movies with Bebb...Part Six...Jumanji

I know, I know. I've let the team down by not posting my Wednesday movie review on Wednesday. Blame my mother. She was staying with us last night and forced me to go out for dinner with her to an Indian restaurant, and then insisted that I lie on the couch and watch a movie with her. What a terrible woman.

I was going to review something else today but then realised that most of my reviews so far have been for confronting/sad/distressing movies, and it was probably time to mix it up a bit. I do love movies that push the boundaries and confront the viewer, but a bit of fluff is always good too. So today I am going to review...

In 1869, two boys bury a chest containing something dangerous and terrifying in the woods near Brantford, New Hampshire. When one of them asks what will happen if someone digs it up, the other replies "May God have mercy on his soul". The sound of tribal drums is heard as the boys ride away.
A century later, 12-year-old Alan Parrish, a bullied boy who feels unloved by his wealthy father, follows the sound of tribal drums and discovers a buried board game, Jumanji. He and his friend Sarah begin to play, though they are disturbed that the pieces move themselves once the dice are rolled. After Alan's roll, the game screen reads, "In the jungle you must wait, until the dice read five or eight..." Before Sarah's horrified eyes, Alan is sucked into the game and disappears. We then jump forwards another 26 years and meet Judy and Peter (Kirsten Dunst and Bradley Pierce) who are now living in the house and discover the game. As all manner of jungle creatures begin manifesting around them, Peter rolls a 5 and releases Alan, now played by Robin Williams, who has indeed been trapped in the jungle for all that time. They team up with Sarah, now played by Bonnie Hunt and still traumatised by what she saw that night, to finish the game started 26 years ago in the hope that the creatures and other jungle happenings will all go away...

This is a great adventure movie, if you are prepared to suspend disbelief and overlook a few minor imperfections. I first saw it at the movies for my 10th birthday and remember loving it, and have seen it a few times since then. Mr Bebb hadn't seen it since 1995 so we sat down to watch it together and enjoyed the escapism. ("Is that a little Kirsten Dunst?" Mr Bebb was heard to exclaim at one point.) It's a well-made kid's movie that can be enjoyed by adults as well, and I definitely picked up on a few jokes that I didn't remember as I'm sure they went right over my head when I watched this as a child.

It's scary enough to be thrilling while still a family movie, and the effects still look pretty good considering it was made 17 years ago (with the possible exception of the monkeys, who could have been done a little better). The acting is fairly good- I do like Robin Williams and he is, as usual, a great actor to watch, though I had to question why his character was so grounded and normal after 26 years alone in the jungle. (That's what I mean about suspending disbelief.) I've always thought Kirsten Dunst was a good actress and it's fun to see her in one of her first movies. There are a few less-than-great performances from lesser characters and the occasional jarring moment in the script, but these are minor issues and don't unduly affect your enjoyment of the film.

The action is nonstop once the film gets going and it's easy to get caught up in the plight of the main characters and feel a little tense, even if you know what is going to happen. If it's been years since you watched Jumanji, I recommend rediscovering it for an evening of fun, light entertainment. If you haven't seen it before, it's a great movie to watch with your family as kids today will love it as much as they did in 1995.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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