Saturday, February 02, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Jumanji (1995) ***

PG, 104 min.
Director: Joe Johnston
Writers: Jonathan Hensleigh, Greg Taylor, Jim Strain, Chris Van Allsburg (also book)
Starring: Robin Williams, Kirsten Dunst, Bradley Pierce, Bonnie Hunt, David Alan Grier, Jonathan Hyde, Bebe Neuwirth, Patricia Clarkson, Adam Hann-Byrd, Laura Bell Bundy

“Jumanji” came about in that period where I had left the family movie market. I was well done with family films personally and I didn’t have kids yet, nor had Pixar had a chance to fully impact the family movie market to make all family movie more palatable to all ages.

“Jumanji” really isn’t an all ages movie. It’s a little too simple to hold adult interests, but therein lies part of its charm. Telling the story of a board game that comes to life, Joe Johnston’s film focuses primarily on the roller coaster ride this game provides its players. It doesn’t worry too much about the consequences thanks to the game’s claim that once someone wins everything will be put back the way it was.

This game, like the film’s major star Robin Williams, goes way over the top, with steaks rising to a deadly and manic level very quickly. I like that the characters do seem to understand that this game is a life and death endeavor. I also like that the story gives them no choice about whether they play or not. If there were some sort of choice, why would anyone play this game?

The plot has its share of flaws. Considering the consequences of playing, none of the people who do play seem to try very hard to make sure no one will ever find the game again. No one even considers trying to destroy the game. The exploration of these possibilities would be necessary to make this plot work well for an adult audience. It would be fun to see the game’s insistence to exist. For kids, however, this is just the type of fantasy they thrive on. It’s a borderline film, but its fun enough to spin for the kids.

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