JUMANJI (2001) 

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Robin Williams
Jonathan Hyde
Kirsten Dunst
Bradley Pierce
Bonnie Hunt
Bebe Neuwirth
David Alan Grier
Patricia Clarkson
Adam Hann-Byrd

Joe Johnston




Time: 104 mins.
Rating: PG
Genre: Action Adventure/Fantasy

I don't normally go out of my way to see movies that are marketed to kids. I like more adult fare, but I have to say the trailers for this film intrigued me. The special effects looked, and are, amazing, with wild animals rampaging as the major draw. Unfortunately, like most other films that have great visual effects, the plot and characterizations are somewhat weak and undeveloped. Will you care all that much? In the case of JUMANJI, not really. The pacing of this film, which is non-stop action, keeps your eyes glued to the screen, even though it doesn't really engage your heart or your brain. Though it's based on a children's classic, it's more roller-coaster ride than a well-rounded novel. It may not have depth, but it does have scare after scare, and it's PG-Rating should be taken somewhat seriously. Nobody plays the board game twice for a reason. It may not be as scary as Freddy, but being chased by crocodiles and lions is no day in the park.

The film opens with the burial of this old board game, which apparently calls to people who are unhappy with their lives. Over a century later, 12-year-old Alan Parrish finds the game buried near his father's workplace. He convinces his neighbor Sarah to play the jungle game only to be sucked into the board on one of his first rolls. Sarah runs for her life when her friend disappears before her eyes. Once the game has been started it must be finished or the creatures unleased from its' magical world will stay in yours forever.

Unfortunately for Alan, the game is put away for 26 years, trapping him within the Jumanji jungle, until two new lonely, dispirited children, Judy (Dunst) and Peter (Pierce) uncover the game. Still dealing with the death of their parents, the youngsters decide to play a round only to rescue a now-adult Alan from his banishment within the game. Of course, in order to properly finish the game they need to find Sarah (Hunt) and convince her to continue rolling the dice, no matter what happens, until somebody wins. Sarah is highly reluctant, but once she sees her old friend again she agrees to participate. What happens next is a series of close calls with various flora, fauna and fanged creatures. All of which they must defeat, not only to stay alive, but to continue on with the game.

"Don't ever call me crazy, Alan! Ever! 'Cause everyone in this town has called me crazy ever since I told them that you were sucked into a board game!"

This is where the special effects come into play and they're for the most part worth the wait. It's not everyday that you see elephants, zebras and rhinos rampaging down Main Street. The challenges unleashed by the game help create an extended family for these characters who have found themselves without one. A little sappy, but it's all the heart the films' got. It doesn't get too bad, since most of the bonding happens due to escaping a deadly trap or dangerous animal. The actors try to give their characters some personality, but they don't get very far. Like JURASSIC PARK, no one is watching the film for that. It can't have been easy acting scared in front of nothing and the actors do a good job of convincing the audience that they're in danger. Once the film gets going there's nothing stopping it, which helps the lack of story to go down easier. You're pretty much constantly worried about what's coming out of the game next to think about character development. If you're looking for a fun film to help pass the time, that doesn't task your brain too much and you can watch with your kids, JUMANJI is one you should check out. Much like the board game, it's a pretty good ride the first time through, but you won't be rushing to visit again.

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