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Thursday, 2 June 2016

Retro Movie Review: Jumanji (1995) #RobinWilliams

Cast: Robin Williams, Kirsten Dunst, Bradley Pierce, David Alan Grier, Bonnie Hunt, Jonathan Hyde, Bebe Neuwirth
Genre: Action-Adventure 
Estimated Worldwide Gross: over $262 million

Trivia: David Alan Grier who plays the cop in Jumanji has a son who also appeared with Robin Williams in 1991's Hook as one of the Lost Boys 

Plot: When two kids find and play a magical board game, they release a man trapped for decades in it & a host of dangers that can only be stopped by finishing the game

'More Action-Packed Than Hook, But Compared To The Former Lacking In Heart'

Jumanji is one of those movies where although as good as it is in places, it could have been a whole lot better as well. 

Some kids buy a board game titled 'Jumanji', but of whom don't elaborate on or explain what it is for and who created it. Now fast forward to 1969: a kid named Alan Parrish, along with his female friend, Sarah encounters the game & after a few throws of the dice and turns, transports Alan to another dimension where he is left languishing. Then 2 kids played by Kirsten Dunst and Bradley Pierce (who reminds me of a young Fred Savage of The Wonder Years) replay the game from the start, a quarter of a century later, & in doing so, they unleash a grown-up Alan (Robin Williams) and with it, anarchy and chaos. 

Undoubtedly, the one scene from this entire movie that will be replayed over and over again is the animal stampede: visually, it is a treat for the eyes and it looks really, really convincing.  

When it comes to action, by contrast to Hook, Jumanji has buckets galore of the stuff and there is a lot going on in the film. 

The plot is original and interesting, but the story is where the movie falters a tiny bit; there are full of holes. Given they are having to rush through the game, they have to stop and wait & see what happens after each throw of the dice. Because of this, the narrative drags on repetitiously and it isn't as continuous and fluid as it ought to be and hence, we are left waiting for a short while to see what happens next. 

Not to mention some of the characterisation; other than Alan, what else about the other characters do we need to know about? What is their role in this film? How are they important? But probably the biggest downside is the lack of personality: I wanted to find out a little bit more about Sarah, Peter and Judy but as individuals and as people - other than them being orphans, in reference to Judy and Peter and living with their aunt which wasn't related to the plot or had anything to do with it. Which is a bit of a shame. I even found Peter and Judy less annoying than Jack and Maggie in Hook and of whom had better personalities than Daniel Hillard's dull children from Mrs Doubtfire

And yet, nothing. I was slightly disappointed with that. 

With action-adventure films, when you have a small or large ensemble of characters, especially protagonist characters, they have interesting personalities, which are integral to any story to move forward and for the film to end up with a happy resolution. With regards to the resolution, it was sort of nice - yet a little too sappy for a film of this type.  

Fans will always try to compare this movie to Hook, - me personally, this movie doesn't have heart like Hook does, or much of it - there are no major life lessons, morals learnt and for those who expect Robin to go into goofy or wacky mode, you're not going to see it in Jumanji, or Hook for that matter. Alan Parrish comes across as moody, a "downer" person, far more so than Peter Banning of Hook & whose attitude just rubs me up the wrong way - in fact, he is one of my least favourite Robin Williams characters, but he is also a pretty serious character who doesn't mess about and likes to get things done. But for one scene where he shows his softer side and proving that he does care a lot. 

But it certainly takes the best elements of action-adventure, comedy and drama and fuses it together to make a one really good film. The performances by the cast members were excellent too; each of them convinced me entirely in their character roles. Another thing I will give credit to the film for is the underlying theme of teamwork and working together to solve problems and thinking how to overcome a certain hurdle. This is part and parcel when playing a board game or video game, and as Alan and co. are in a board game, this particular theme is all the more coincidental and logical. Therefore, props are due to the creator/writer for including this. 

There are also a lot of suspenseful and intense moments, which keeps viewers entertained and interested. I just wished there was more left in the tank for Jumanji. 

Nonetheless, as much as the remake will (hopefully) remain as tactful to the original as possible and Dwayne ''The Rock'' Johnson's portrayal will pay tribute to Robin Williams's legacy, I don't think the original Jumanji could ever be toppled or replaced. & that is despite a few of its flaws. 



Pros +

- Special effects are pretty good 

- Plot is original, imaginative and well-devised 

- Action-packed, entertaining and intense in places 

- Another great Robin Williams action- adventure movie

- Is a great fusion of action-adventure, comedy, drama and good acting 

- The whole 'teamwork' and 'working together to achieve a common goal theme' was good to see 

- Impressive performances 

Cons -

- Alan Parish is too moody in this film

- Story lacks heart compared to Hook 

- Some of the CGI effects look dated 

- Film left me wanting more, despite the ending 

Final Verdict:

Jumanji is an impressive fantasy action-adventure flick that is an array of non-stop action and plenty of cool scenes. Yet where it struggles against a movie such as Hook is its lack of heart in the narrative department, not to mention the characters; likewise, I'd wished the protagonists, but for Peter and Judy, were just as interesting as those in Hook. I am also not going to question how visually impressive Jumanji looks in places - and that is in spite of some of the CGI which has aged a lot -, but I just felt that something was missing when it came to the story. 

As straightforward as it sounded and how this was conceived on screen, through the special effects and everything, it doesn't take away from the fact it left me wanting more. There was a lot more that could be said, that could be told and explored, - and yet the truth was, there just wasn't much that was said about the film. 

But at least the performances were first-class, especially by Robin Williams, Bonnie Hunt and Kirsten Dunst and like I said, it was exciting & enthralling in places.  & the teamwork thing was a good touch to the movie. 

It's just that with Jumanji, it is more of a matter of style over substance.   

Still, if adventure movies are your thing, then Jumanji is a total blast. 


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