I’ve talked about quality Children’s movies in the past, mostly due to the fact that they’re a difficult monster to tackle. Rather than giving in to the thought process that children are far less critical of movies and making something that is just passable as entertainment is A-OK, some go the extra mile to not only make a good movie for kids, but a good movie in general. In a recent viewing of the 1995 film Jumanji I was impressed at just how well it has held up over time. It implemented not only a talented cast, but an exciting and heartfelt story about dealing with ones fears and the importance of friendship. Not to mention it allowed the viewers imagination to run wild.
We’re introduced to Alan, a young boy who is led to find a mysterious board game buried deep in a construction site. It’s all very mysterious. We’re given a glimpse into Alan’s life, the complicated relationship he has with his father and the problems with local bullies. Alan eventually finds himself playing the new found game with Sarah Whittle, a neighbor girl whom he has a slight crush on. As soon as the game begins the atmosphere changes and abnormality abounds. Alan rolls poorly, to say the least, and Sarah watches helplessly as he is literally sucked into the core of the game board, screaming. She runs from the house and never returns. The movie then jumps forward 26 years, and two other children find themselves in a very similar situation.
Jumanji proved to be a popular movie in it’s time, and looking back it’s evident as to why that was the case. The visuals in the film, for one thing, are good even by today’s standards (with a few exceptions). It’s largely acknowledged that this was a big step in the process of moving towards a wider use of CGI in film. The premise of jungle like elements flowing from a board game and into the real world is an extremely fun premise, but it’s pieced together with a coherent and emotionally relateable story. The cast also does a fantastic job, with Robin Williams leading the way and a young Kirsten Dunst starring alongside. Williams portrays a child stuck in a grown man’s body perfectly as the older version of Alan, the boy that gets sucked into the Jumanji. He uses his naturally energetic nature to capture the essence of the child while utilizing his talent as a dramatic actor to deal with the serious nature of what’s happened to him.
The film appeals to the endued sense of adventure, curiosity and imagination the resides in the heart of anyone that was a child. Growing up I would often speculate with friends weather or not I would play Jumanji, given the chance. It’s a quality piece of family entertainment that allows movie night to be accompanied by an unprecedented level of quality. There are far things more exciting than having a rain forest in your living room, and with Jumanji, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.