Jumanji is the name given to a bizarre board game which has the power to influence and alter reality in anyway it sees fit, whether for good or evil intent. When young Alan Parrish and his friend Sarah begin to play after finding the game a hundred years after some other poor souls buried it, they don’t realise its unimaginable powers until Alan is magically transported into the untamed jungles of Jumanji.
Twenty-six years later, Judy and Peter discover the dusty board and reawaken the game as they begin to play. Instantly the forces of Jumanji release a fully-grown and bewildered Alan Parrish into their world. With each roll of the dice they must face the increasingly terrifying consequences until the game is finished and the victor has uttered with word JUMANJI.
For a film such as this, Robin Williams is ideal as the manic adult Alan Parrish. It’s the sort of role he always gets to play and excels in it well. Jonathan Hyde is also very good in a dual role as the embittered father to the young Alan in 1969 and as the bad guy Van Pelt opposite the adult Alan in 1995. For those who are not familiar with him, he recently played the designer of the great ship who decided not to go down with it in James Cameron’s Titanic.
Of the rest of the adult roles, Bonnie Hunt doesn’t get much to do other than wonder if she’s really lost her marbles, Bebe Neuwirth has a small, under-used role as Aunt Nora and David Alan Grier is a cop having a really bad day. There’s not much to choose between the roles although they all have their part to play.
As for the children, only Kirsten Dunst has had a taste of prominent roles in Interview With The Vampire and Little Women, while Adam Hann-Byrd, excellent in Jodie Foster’s directorial debut Little Man Tate, has had roles in Diabolique and The Ice Storm.
The picture quality is very good with motion artifacts only in the dark areas. Most of the film is set in day time so no problem there, but the opening scene in 1869 is set late at night making the first few minutes seem like artifact-city.
The film is presented in its original widescreen ratio of 1.85:1, is enhanced for 16:9 widescreen televisions – thus allowing for higher resolution – and the average bitrate is an so-so 4.35 Mb/s but is enough for most of what’s on view here, blending in the CGI with the anamatronics.
The sound comes in three formats: MPEG Stereo Surround which will replicate Dolby Pro-Logic surround sound, Dolby Digital 5.1 which will benefit all of those with the suitable hardware and MPEG Multichannel 5.1 which won’t benefit many at all.
Not only is James Horner’s excellent score reproduced well here, but so are all the special effects when the board game kicks in and chaos reigns, especially for chapter 12: “Stampede”.
There are 21 chapters spread throughout the 100 mins of the film. It could use more but it’s a fairly decent amount. The last one is saved for the end credits.
It’s confusing that the main menu has a “Play trailer” option as you’d expect it to be the trailer for this particular film, but it’s not. It’s a collection of clips from various Columbia TriStar films coming soon to DVD.
There’s just the one language on this disc – English – plus subtitles in English, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Cantonese, Italian, Greek and Hebrew.
Although there is a ‘Subtitles Off’ option, the disc still insists on showing the text for a few certain signposts, place names, etc. even if the text is already presented in the film. Don’t adjust your player though – this is down to Columbia TriStar themselves. It’s nothing to get upset about as I could count on one hand the number of times it happens.
The interactive menu is excellent and just dragging the mouse pointer over an option highlights it. The main menu also appears very quickly. However, on playing the film it is then that time is taken up with the Columbia TriStar logo and copyright info.
Overall, this is a very good family comedy which works well for children and has enough one-liners and action to keep adults amused too and is worth checking out.
One wonders, since this film spawned a cartoon series following up the cast’s adventures, if that will makes its debut on DVD any time soon.
Running time: 100 minutes
Studio: Columbia TriStar
Cat.no: CDR 94029
Region(s): 2, PAL
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1, MPEG Stereo Surround, MPEG Multichannel 5.1
Subtitles: English, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Cantonese, Italian, Greek, Hebrew
Disc Format: DVD9
Director: Joe Johnston
Producers: Scott Kroopf, William Teitler
Screenplay: Jonathan Hensleigh, Greg Taylor, Jim Strain
Music: James Horner
Alan Parrish: Robin Williams
Van Pelt/Sam Parrish: Jonathan Hyde
Judy: Kirsten Dunst
Peter: Bradley Pierce
Sarah: Bonnie Hunt
Nora: Bebe Neuwirth
Carl Bentley: David Alan Grier
Young Alan: Adam Hann-Byrd
Young Sarah: Laura Bell Bundy
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.