I was in my late teens when 'Jumanji' was released in theaters. Maybe it was my too-cool-for-school-and-anything-else-for-that-matter attitude, but I never really got into it. I was too busy thinking of cars, girls, and being popular. 'Jumanji' was a kids movie full of kid-tastic adventure. It wasn't for me. Sure, I saw it, but I don't remember loving it, or even liking it. Now that I've wised up and racked up a few more years I can revisit 'Jumanji' with a childlike wonder that I lacked when I was a teenager (funny how that works huh?).
Young Alan Parrish (who is played by Robin Williams when he's older) is a social outcast. His dad is wealthy and comes from high society. Alan is relentlessly teased by the bullies of the city, and now his parents want to send him away to an all-boys school. Nothing is going his way. That is until he finds a board game at a construction site, a game that's been buried for years. The game is called Jumanji and it's about to change Alan's life forever.
Sarah Whittle (who is played by Bonnie Hunt when she's older) is Alan's thick-browed love interest. They sit down to play the game. Only it's not an ordinary game. Roll the dice and the game comes to life with different jungle-related challenges thrown at you. Alan is soon sucked into the game as Sarah is chased down the street by bats, and there the game sits for 26 years, when young Judy (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter (Bradley Pierce) Shepherd begin a game of their own.
Judy and Peter are dealing with the recent, tragic, loss of their parents. They've just moved into the old Parrish place, which by now is pretty rundown and in need of some serious renovations. When Judy and Peter begin playing the game, the same odd things start happening to them. A lion appears out of thin air, and a jungle man pops up out of nowhere. Alan Parrish is back, freed from the captivity that the game has held him in for 26 long years.
What's so fun about 'Jumanji' is its adventurous spirit. I've loved board games ever since I was a kid. I remember imagining what my Risk figures would do while the battle was raging. Board games still require some imagination on the part of the participant. At some point I wonder if we all wished that we'd have a 'Jumanji' type experience with our favorite games. Forget the fact that the actual game seems more sinister and downright scary than a Ouija board, it's an adventure and that's what matters.
After all these years, the special effects have held up as best they could. They were great in 1995, but now they look pretty dated. No matter though, because what the movie lacks in CG it makes up with actual animatronics and puppets. It's a testament to the reality that can be achieved using real world animatronic techniques instead of simply rendering everything on a computer screen. 'Jumanji's realistic animatronics ground you in a sense of reality, even though everything that happens during the movie is far from normal.
Yes, 'Jumanji' travels the well-trod road of familiar tropes. Lessons are learned by each player and moments are shared. What makes the movie fun is its sense of adventure and its penchant for destruction. It's sure to amuse adults who are revisiting it, and delight their kids who are seeing it for the first time.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Sony's release of 'Jumanji' comes complete with a DVD copy of the movie. The movie itself comes pressed on a BD-50 Dual Layer disc. It's also purportedly a region free disc.
Sony has provided 'Jumanji' a 1080p AVC-encoded high definition transfer. This film, which was originally released in 1995, has a somewhat dated and processed look to it. In case you were wondering, yes 'Jumanji' looks like it was filmed in the mid-90s. It lacks that crisp look we're always hoping for when a catalogue title comes to Blu-ray.
As I discussed above, the special effects haven't aged all that well, and in high definition, their vintage is easy to gauge. The monkeys, specifically, look pretty bad. They appear almost flat and faded. Other computer effects, like the stampede, have held up well however. They're still noticeably dated, but they don't leave a bad aftertaste like the monkeys. Tsk. So typical of monkeys.
Colors are, for the most part, bright and lively. They do seem a little reserved, but when the bright purple and yellow plants start popping up all over the house the more vibrant colors shine. Skin tones appear natural, but faces appear a bit waxy due to processing. Noticeable edge enhancement seems to be used here and there producing some haloing around edges of objects and people. Textures, like the wooden carvings of the game box or the wood grain of the floor that Robin Williams becomes stuck in are bolstered by some strong fine detailing. Infrequent white flecks pop up every now and then, but they aren't anything to be alarmed by. Actually this presentation is quite clean from any dirt and debris that may distract from viewing. Fans of the flick may be a little disappointed with this notably dated and processed transfer, but on the other hand it's hard to imagine 'Jumanji' looking much better.
I wasn't all that impressed with 'Jumanji's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix either. Like the video presentation it suffers from age. One of the biggest problems here is prioritization. When the action begins, the sub rumbles to life and pounds out the LFE, regardless of the dialogue. Many instances of dialogue being drowned out occur. Directionality features soft dialogue as characters move further away from the camera. Then, crash, bang, blam, we're back to full throttle sound that is almost jarring in its intrusion.
The mix just doesn't seem cohesive enough to be considered top-notch. It has its fare share of energetic action sequences, and will definitely fill up the room with booming LFE and weighty ambience spilling from the rear speakers. It excels during the stampede scene as rhinos and elephants crash through the wall. Still, it just seems too disjointed and disconnected from the more subtle parts with soft dialogue. The gap is too great and some of the lines get lost in the fray. If you're looking for a rock'em sock'em presentation then you'll get it, but if you're looking for a well-balanced audio presentation you'll have to look elsewhere.
It was fun revisiting 'Jumanji'. I have a greater affinity for its pure adventure qualities than I did in my teenage years. Sure, its CG effect don't compare to the movies being released nowadays, but they still do their job rather well. It's kind of disappointing that the video and audio aren't a bit better. They'll suffice though. Fans should be sufficiently happy with the outcome. 'Jumanji' is worth a look on Blu-ray.