1995 was a pretty eventful year for me. I graduated high school, started college, worked insane hours, had lots of fun, and went to tons of movies. Today’s movie happens to be one of the last movies I saw that year, as it came out right in the middle of December. Now I never read the book as a kid, (or now to be honest….I should fix that) but I had heard of the book and was curious about this movie. Having seen a special about the special effects on HBO (I think it was HBO, might have been another premium channel), and the fact that Robin Williams was starring in it only made me more keen on watching Jumanji. When the sequel came out last year, I decided to pick it up when it came out on video and figured I might as well get the original while I was at it. So let’s dive right into the things.
The plot: In 1869 Brantford, New Hampshire, two brothers, Caleb and Benjamin, are burying a chest in the middle of the woods. When the sound of drums suddenly start coming from the chest, Benjamin wants to run but Caleb says that they need to bury it and afterwards, they race back home. 100 years later, Alan Parish is riding his bike home from school when a group of bullies, led by Billy Jessup, chase after him and Alan heads to his father’s shoe company to get away from them. Heading up to the floor, Alan runs into Carl Bentley, who greets Alan and shows him a new shoe he has designed and plans to show to Alan’s father. Just then, Alan’s father Sam shows up and when Alan asks him for a ride home, Sam tells him that he is going to have to face his fears over Billy. Alan reluctantly leaves and Sam asks Carl about what he wanted to show him but Alan had accidentally placed the shoe on a conveyor belt and when it ends up breaking a machine, Carl takes the blame for the accident. Billy and his gang are waiting for Alan when he leaves and they beat him up and steal his bike. As Alan goes to leave, he hears drums coming from the nearby construction site next to his dad’s company and after digging in the ground, discovers the chest. When Alan opens it, he finds a board game called Jumanji and he quickly grabs it and takes it home. When he gets there, he starts looking at the game pieces when his mother startles him and as he drops them, the two game pieces immediately roll onto the starting positions. That night, Alan’s parents talk to Alan about sending him to a boarding school, which all of the Parish men have gone to, but Alan doesn’t want to go and ends up arguing with Sam about the issue. After his parents leave, Alan packs a suitcase to run away and then goes to grab the game when he hears someone knocking on the door. Opening it, he find Billy’s girlfriend Sarah Whittle returning his bike and apologizing for Billy. The two talk briefly when Sarah hears the drums from the game and Alan invites her in to show her. As Sarah holds the dice, Alan reads the game description and asks her if she wants to play. Sarah says no, tossing the dice on the board, and goes to leave when Alan alerts her to the fact that one of the tokens is moving on it’s own. A message appears in the middle of the board and they hear a sound coming from the fireplace so Sarah asks Alan to put the game up but he accidentally drops the dice on the board when the clock chime startles him. Alan’s token starts moving and a message appears saying that he must wait in the jungle until the dice read 5 or 8. Sarah screams as Alan is suddenly sucked into the game and he yells at Sarah to roll the dice before he disappears, but a flock of bats erupt from the fireplace and chase Sarah out of the house. 26 years later, Nora Shepherd has bought the old Parish home, with plans of turning it into a bed and breakfast. Nora is accompanied by her niece and nephew Judy and Peter, whose parents died last winter. As they are getting settled in, Peter takes a suitcase to the attic and is frightened by a bat that is up there. Nora calls an exterminator and he doesn’t find the bat but tells the kids about Alan Parish and how people believe his father killed him. The next night, Judy and Peter are talking about their parents when they hear the sounds of drums. As the drums persist the next day, the two kids skip school and head up into the attic to try and find where the drums are coming from, eventually finding Jumanji. Deciding to play it, Peter tries to move the two tokens that are on the board but can’t. He then grabs the two remaining tokens and the suddenly move onto the starting positions. Judy goes first and when the rhyme appears on the board, a swarm of giant mosquitoes flies down towards them. Judy and Peter avoid them, and after Judy hits one out a window with a tennis racket, the rest of the swarm flies out as well. Peter rolls the dice and they discover a horde of monkeys making a mess in the kitchen. Returning to the game, Judy sees more instructions stating that the only way for the game’s effects to end is for a player to reach the center and call out “Jumanji”. Since Peter rolled doubles, he rolls again and gets a 5, causing a lion to appear in the attic. The lion chases after the kids when suddenly, an adult Alan Parish appears and lures the lion into a bedroom, which he locks inside. The kids hide in the linen closet as Alan looks around and realizes that he is back home. When Judy and Peter approach him, Alan asks which of them rolled a 5 or 8, thanking Peter when he learns that he did. Alan then goes yelling out for his mom and dad and Judy tells him she doesn’t know where his parents are, as everyone believed that he was dead. Alan heads outside and is almost hit by Carl, who became a police officer after losing his job at the shoe factory. As Judy tries to explain away Alan’s behavior and appearance, Alan sees some monkey get into Carl’s squad car and tries to scare them out but they end up stealing the car and Carl chases after it. Alan rushes off to the shoe factory, only to find it closed down and a bum that is living there tells him what happened with his father, loaning Alan some clothes so he doesn’t freeze. Alan goes to the graveyard to see his parents’ graves, then starts heading back to his home, with Judy trying to convince him to help them finish the game. Suddenly, a car crashes into an ambulance and as the paramedics check on the driver, Alan hears something, then tells Judy and Peter to get in the car. Alan asks them what else came out of the game and Judy mentions the lions and monkeys, just as Peter points out the mosquito trying to get at them. Alan manages to drive the car back to his home, escaping from the mosquito in the process, and takes a shower and shaves. As Judy continues trying to get Alan to help them, Peter says Alan is afraid and Alan warns them of the dangers in the game, but agrees to watch. Judy rolls the dice nut nothing happens and when she goes to roll again, Alan realizes that they are still playing the game that he and Sarah started years ago. Judy hands him the dice but Alan says that it isn’t his turn either, and they go to track down Sarah. They head to where Sarah used to live and find that she had changed her name and is pretending to be a psychic but when Alan confronts her, she faints when she realizes who he is. Alan carries her back to his house, where she freaks out upon seeing the game and as Alan tries to calm her down and convince her to play, he ends up having to trick her into continuing. Sarah’s roll causes vines to start spreading in the dining room, and Alan uses his ancestor’s sabre to save Peter from being eaten by a giant pod. Sarah tries to leave, telling Alan that the game ruined her life and when he reminds her that he was trapped in the game, Sarah reluctantly agrees to play as they all agree to keep playing until it’s done. Alan rolls the dice and when the rhyme appears, he leaps up in terror as the hunter Van Pelt appears and begins hunting him. Alan leads Van Pelt out of the house, just as Carl shows up, and while Van Pelt is distracted by Carl, Alan is able to get away and return to the house. Sarah and Alan start arguing about his actions while Judy goes ahead and rolls the dice, only to cause a stampede to appear. As Alan and the others duck out of the way, a pelican manages to grab the game and Alan chastise Peter for not stopping it. Alan chases after the bird and catches up to it by the river but as he distracts it with some fish, the game drops into the water and floats downstream until Peter catches it. Meanwhile, Van Pelt heads to the local gun shop to get some more ammo and when they don’t have the caliber he uses, he bribes the clerk into giving him a new gun, then continues hunting Alan. As Alan and the others head back to Alan’s house, Carl pulls up and arrests Alan, who resists at first until he hears a bullet whiz by him and realizes Van Pelt is there. Alan tries to let the others know about Van Pelt as Carl drives off with him but while everyone was distracted, Peter tried to cheat to finish the game and ends up being punished by the game as he starts turning into a monkey. Sarah, Judy, and Peter reach town, where the people are starting to riot after all the craziness that is going on, and Van Pelt grabs the game from Sarah in order to set a trap for Alan. Peter tries to take the game back but when the stampede approaches, Peter ends up trapped in a car that is crushed by an elephant and Van Pelt is able to take the game back, then head to a nearby store. Sarah, Judy, and Peter go to get the game back, doing their best to avoid being shot by Van Pelt, but when he gets the game back from them, he tells them he could have shot them at any time but they didn’t roll the dice. Meanwhile, Alan tells Carl who he is and Carl reluctantly lets him go only to have Alan handcuff him to his police car. Alan goes to leave but when he hears a police report about a hostage situation with Sarah, Judy, and Peter, Alan gets in the car with Carl and drives to the store, crashing through the door and burying Van Pelt underneath cans of paint. Meanwhile, Nora is returning home when she sees the stampede moving down the road and as she stops to watch it, a monkey sneaks into her car and causes her to crash when she continues driving. Alan and the others return to the house to find it completely overrun by wines and jungle growth. Sarah rolls the dice and causes a monsoon to form inside the house and as they try to get to the upper floors, a massive wave of water knocks them back down. Two crocodiles appear and attempt to eat them but Alan gets Judy and Peter on a chandelier and then wrestles one of the crocodiles to keep it from eating Sarah. Carl heads back to the house when he sees Nora walking on the side of the road and as he questions her, a giant vine comes out from the woods and grabs his car, dragging it into the forest. Carl and Nora arrive at the house and, hearing the screams coming from inside, Carl attempts to kick the door in but the kick only causes the water inside to burst out, with the crocodiles being swept out of the house in the deluge while Carl and Nora float along on the doors. Alan helps everyone down and Sarah thanks him for saving her life and goes to kiss him but Alan, not understanding the situation, tells her they should keep going. Heading up to the attic, Alan’s roll causes the floor to turn into quicksand and he starts sinking into it. As Sarah tries to save him, Judy rolls the dice and causes the last event to be taken back, leaving Alan and Sarah trapped in the floor. Peter rolls the dice and causes spiders to appear in the attic and as Judy tries to fend them off, Alan tells Peter to get the axe his father had and use it to free him and Sarah. As Peter gets the axe, Nora returns to the house and is shocked to see Alan’s legs hanging from the ceiling and the lion in the bedroom. When she sees Peter, she screams out and falls into the closet and Peter locks her in there to keep her safe. In the attic, Alan tells Sarah to take her turn and Judy goes to get the game for them when she is shot by the poisonous barb from a purple vine flower. Peter returns and chops the flower, then works on keeping the spiders at bay while Judy places the game on Alan’s face, then puts the dice in Sarah’s mouth but then falls to the floor as the poison takes effect on her. As Peter rushes to his sister, Sarah spits out the dice and causes an earthquake to occur, splitting the house in two. Alan is freed from the floor and manages to grab the game before he crashes to the floor below. Picking up the dice, Alan goes to roll them when Van Pelt confronts him and orders him to drop them, one of which rolls down a crack in the floor. As Van Pelt prepares to shoot Alan, the dice completes it’s roll and Alan notices he has reached the center of the board. Alan calls out “Jumanji” just as Van Pelt fires at him and Sarah jumps in front of the bullet but the bullet disappears into the game, as does Van Pelt and all of the animals that had been released. Alan and Sarah find themselves back in 1969 and as Sam returns to the house, having forgotten something, Alan hugs him and apologizes for the fight, then tells Sam that he had placed the shoe on the conveyor belt, not Carl. After Sam leaves, Alan remembers Judy and Peter but Sarah tells him that they don’t exist yet. Alan and Sarah take the game and throw it into the river, weighing it down with brick so it will sink, and Sarah kisses Alan before they head home. Years later, Alan and Sarah, now married and expecting a kid, are throwing a company Christmas party at their house when Sarah tells Alan that “they” are here. Sarah and Alan introduce themselves to Jim and Martha Shepherd, and are delighted to see that Judy and Peter are just as they remember them. Alan is in the process of hiring Jim and when Jim mentions going on a ski trip, Alan and Sarah both say no, as they know that they die in that ski trip, and convince him to start the next week and Jim agrees, then Alan introduces Jim to his new coworkers while telling Judy and Peter that his house is their house if they want.
Jumanji met with mixed reviews from the critics, holding a 55% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, many critics praised the special effects in the movie while others criticized the thin and dark plot. Though the movie’s plot differs greatly from that of the book on which it is based, the ending of the film is very similar, in which the game is found by two other young children. In the book, the two children who find the game at the end are named Walter and Danny, the main characters from Zathura: A Space Adventure. The movie was a box office success, earning $262.8 million off of a $65 million budget and would spawn an animated series from 96-99 and a sequel in 2017.
Definitely a bit dark for a kids movie but this is still a good movie to watch. The acting was good, with Robin Williams doing a great job as Alan Parish, while Jonathan Hyde did an equally good job as Sam Parish and Van Pelt. Bonnie Hunt (Sarah), Kirsten Dunst (Judy), and Bradley Pierce (Peter) were also good, while David Alan Grier provided some good comedy in his own right as Carl. I know that the plot differed from the book but since I haven’t read it, I don’t know by how much. I will say that this is pretty dark for a kids movie and even though there is a happy ending to it, I would be hesitant to let any kid under 13 watch it, definitely not any 8 or younger. The special effects were pretty good in some regards but when it came to some of the animals, they didn’t look as good. I think it was mainly the monkeys and the lion, as they looked even more fake than the should have. It’s still a good movie but definitely one where the younger kids should not watch.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5