Some stories have magic in them…literally… and they go on to become a worldwide phenomenon that even the writers would not have imagined at the time of writing.
Such is the case with the 1981 book written and illustrated by Chris Van Alsburg.
We are talking about the scarily entertaining board game – Jumanji that has now turned into a super successful franchisee of audiobooks, TV series and Hollywood blockbusters. The latest in the train starring the Rock was called Jumanji – Welcome to the Jungle. We liked this film and shared our views about it with you, here is the quick link 🙂
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle | Movie Reviews
So we went back to the 1995 version starring Robin Williams and found that this is also quite a hoot. In our opinion, this film should be called Jumanji – The Jungle comes to Town 🙂
|Produced by||:||Scott Kroopf, William Teitler|
|Screenplay by||:||Greg Taylor, Jonathan Hensleigh, Jim Strain|
|Story||:||Greg Taylor, Jim Strain,|
|Based on||:||Jumanji (picture book) by Chris Van Allsburg|
|Music By||:||James Horner|
|Cinematography||:||Thomas E. Ackerman|
|Production Company||:||Interscope Communications, Teitler Film|
|Distributed By||:||TriStar Pictures|
|Release Date||:||15 December 1995|
|Starring||:||Robin Williams (Alan Parrish), Adam Hann-Byrd (Young Alan), Bonnie Hunt (Sarah Whittle), Laura Bell Bundy (Young Sarah), Kirsten Dunst (Judith “Judy” Shepherd), Bradley Pierce (Peter Shepherd), David Alan Grier (Carlton “Carl” Bentley), Jonathan Hyde (Van Pelt / Samuel Alan “Sam” Parrish), Bebe Neuwirth (Nora Shepherd), Patricia Clarkson (Carol-Anne Parrish), Malcolm Stewart (James “Jim” Shephard), Annabel Kershaw (Martha Shepherd), Gary Joseph Thorup (William “Billy” Jessup), Frank Welker (special vocal effects), and others|
Let us take a bird’s eye view of the plot of the movie.
The film starts in 1869 when two young boys are trying to bury a wooden chest as deep as they can, in middle of the night, inside what appears to be uninhabited forest. One of the boys asks -what would happen if somebody dug it out and the other replies – May God have mercy on his soul…..And we couldn’t agree more.
100 years later, its 1969 in New Hampshire and young Alan Parrish is riding his bike like wind to escape a group of bullies whose leader is Billy. Billy is upset that Alan is friends with his girlfriend Sara. Alan’s father Sam Parrish owns a shoe factory and that’s where Alan ends up, hping to get a ride back with his father to escape Billy’s gang.
But his father advises him to face the problem like a man and Alan has no choice but to leave the safety of the factory building. Billy and his friends beat up Alan and run away. It is then that Alan hears the haunting sound of drums beating and follows it to the construction site where big digging machines have unearthed the infernal chest. Alan opens it and gets out the board game called Jumanji.
Alan goes home with the game. However, the miserable day he is having gets only worse as he is told at dinnertime by his parents that he is to go to a boarding school where every Parrish has gone in their time. Alan is angry with his father, promises to never speak to him again and decides to run away. He packs a bag including the game, but before he can leave, Sarah comes to visit him. She has rescued his bike and Alan shows her the board game. They start to play and lo and behold, within couple of roles of dice, Alan has been sucked into the game and Sarah is being chased out of house by bats.
And the film cuts now to 1995. The Parrish house is now old and abandoned and a new family containing two young children called Judy and Peter Shepherd come to live here with their aunt Nora who wants to convert it into a hotel. Peter and Judy’s parents recently died in an accident. As spooky as the house is, the children can’t escape the even spookier drum call of the game and follow the sound to find the game in the attic. It is now their turn to read the rules and start playing.
The first role of dice brings a swarm of mosquitos and the next one a troop of terribly mischievous and nasty monkeys. A fully-fledged lion follows which the children manage to trap in Nora’s bedroom but then Peter rolls a five and Alan finally comes back from the game. He is now 26 years older and has lived most of his adult life in the jungle. To his great sorrow he discovers that his parents are dead, the shoe factory is closed and the whole town is worse for it.
As the game promises that everything will return to normal when it ends, they decide to carry on playing. Of course, they also need Sarah to continue the game. They find her and convince her to take the risk.
As Alan warns them though – as bad as it has been so far, they have no idea what it is to be afraid, not yet – and he is proven very right. The game pretty much brings the whole jungle in and at them. There are wild elephants, rhinos and zebras stampeding through the town, carnivorous plants that grow with an unimaginable speed, wild monsoons that bring flood and crocodiles, a mad explorer hunter, a time spell that turns Peter into semi-monkey, quicksand and much much more.
With some exciting chases through department store, the Parrish house that resembles a jungle now and monkeys riding police motorcycles, it’s a lot of scary fun packed in short span of two hours.
Will they ever finish this maliciously clever game? And can Alan go back 26 years in time to find the life he never lived?
And most importantly, who will hear the drums next and be the one to play Jumanji?
The word Jumanji is from Zulu language meaning many effects. It certainly has a ring to it….and delivers effects that nobody expects to be so real-life. The author Chris Van Alsburg was involved in writing the first screenplay for this film and it was later re-written by a team to get Robin Williams on board.
Directed by Joe Johnston, the film does differ a little from the original book but that’s understandable considering the 14 years’ gap between the book and the film and the changes make it more entertaining.
The film is well and truly a thriller and quite enjoyable watch. However, it doesn’t have the comic relief that the 2017 film has, despite Robin Williams’ quirky and humorous portrayal of Alan. The most notable performances beside Williams are young Kirsten Dunst and Bradley Pierce who play Judy and Peter. Both are vivacious and charming. Rest of the cast is more in the supportive roles.
The real star of the movie of course is the game and the jungle it sends out. It is quite funny to watch the herd of wild elephants and zebras going over the puny motorcars with the rhinos bringing the rear. And in the action sequence filmed in the departmental store you can’t help but notice people stealing things. Such is human nature – if anything is free, take it even if you don’t need it.
While today’s Hollywood films employ terrific computer generated special effects, this 1995 film still combined techniques based on puppetry and animatronics with a little help from computer software to generate the hair on the monkeys and the lion and to give them more expressive faces. Peter’s transformation to a monkey was however completely prosthetic make-up.
The film was a commercial success when it was released and continues to rerun on television networks. IT was followed by multiple TV series, computer games and Robin Williams also voiced the audiobook released in 2011 to mark the 30th anniversary of the original book.
A definite watch.
7.5 out of 10.
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