Film Appreciation: JUMANJI (directed by Joe Johnston)

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by Aveline MacQuoid on October 7, 2020

in Extras


The film Jumanji (1995) starring Robin Williams and Jonathan Hyde, concerns a mysterious board game that contains dark powers and an inner world filled with dangerous environments, creatures and surprises set to challenge those who dare to take on the challenge. Players must put the lives of themselves, friends and family at stake for the ultimate prize of survival.

The film, directed by Joe Johnston is based on Chris Van Allsburg’s 1981 picture book, did incredibly well given mixed reviews; $262,797,249 globally. The movie is so popular that it has spawned two sequels, an animated television series, six video games, books, board games, trading cards, clothes, and even slot games like those at Unibet PA casino.

And then there is Zathura, an illustrated children’s book by Van Allsburg, which is a sequel to Jumanji. Two boys are drawn into an intergalactic adventure when their house is magically hurled through space. The book, which contains references to Jumanji, was adapted into a filmĀ in 2005.

While none of the movies could truly be called “great,” I believe Jumanji remains ensconced in our psyche due to the idea itself, And it’s a wicked good story.

In 1869 two boys bury a chest and hope that no one ever finds it. A century later in New Hampshire, 12-year-old Alan Parrish flees from bullies to the Parrish Shoe Factory owned by his father, Sam. When Alan accidentally damages a machine, employee and friend Carl takes the blame and loses his job. Later, Alan follows the sound of drumbeats and finds the game.

At Parrish Mansion, Alan attempts to run away after an argument with dad. But when his friend Sarah appears, the two begin playing the game: When a player rolls, their piece moves itself and a message appears. When Sarah hurls the dice, it is automatically accepted as a roll and summons shrieking bats. Later, when Alan drops the dice, the crystal ball message states that he must wait in a jungle until a five or an eight is rolled, and he is sucked into the game.

26 years later in 1995, Judy and Peter Shepherd move into the Parrish house with their Aunt after losing their parents in a car crash. They hear drumbeats in the attic, and play the game: giant Mosquitoes attack, and monkeys destroy their kitchen — yet they continue. Peter releases a Lion and an adult Alan, who locks the Lion up. Alan meets Carl working as a cop, and discovers that the town’s economy was devastated by the factory’s closure — Sam abandoned the business to search for his son. Later, Judy and Peter persuade Alan to help them finish the game.

Alan’s roll has no effect; he realizes it’s the game he and Sarah started years ago. Finding Sarah, now a psychic, Alan tricks her into rejoining the game. They release man-eating Pods, big-game hunter Van Pelt, and an animal stampede. Peter transforms into a Monkey after trying to cheat while Alan is taken away by Carl; Peter, Sarah and Judy battle Van Pelt in a department store and finally lose him.

A Monsoon floods the Mansion and triggers two Crocodiles, attacking until Carl enters the house and drains the flood. Upstairs, Alan is sucked into the floor by Quicksand and Judy is shot by a poisonous barb from a Purple Flower. Another roll releases an Earthquake that splits the house in two. Alan wins just in time, causing all jungle elements (including Van Pelt) to be sucked back into the board.

Alan and Sarah find themselves back in 1969, once again children, but with full knowledge of their lives after they started playing. Alan admits to his father that he was the one who damaged the machine. Carl gets his job back. Alan worries that Judy and Peter are still in the attic, but Sarah reminds him that it’s 1969, before they were born. They toss the game away.

Later in 1995, Alan and Sarah are married. Alan has taken over the shoe business, Carl is the plant supervisor, and Sam is retired. Judy, Peter, and their parents meet with Alan and Sarah at a Christmas party, where Alan and Sarah offer the children’s father a job in the shoe company; the ski trip is axed preventing the parents’ deaths.

Meanwhile, two girls hear drumbeats at a beach, where the Jumanji game is half-buried. As the credits close, drumbeats indicate that Jumanji will return to be played again.

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