"You think that mosquitos, monkeys, and lions are bad? That's just the beginning."
Similar to Aaron's experiences with the film, Jumanji just wasn't my thing back in 1995. I loved the original book by Chris Van Allsburg and the terrific art - but I didn't quite take to the movie. At thirteen years old, I was entering that jaded teenage phase, on top of just plain moving past family-friendly movies like Jumanji. The summer Jumanji came out I was just too busy enjoying movies like Heat, Se7en, The Usual Suspects, and my numerous repeat viewings of Apollo 13 at the theater to take what was essentially a kid's film like Jumanji seriously. I only really saw it because I was invited to it for a friend's birthday party - otherwise, I probably wouldn't have given it my time.
While I was a bit of a snarky jackass in 1995, in 2017 as a 35-year-old self-described "man-child," I have to admit that I do enjoy this movie a good bit. I don't think it's a flawless film by any stretch - I share many of the same feelings as Aaron did in his review. However, I do feel like I've put enough distance between the current version of my self and the 13-year-old me to say that the film is a good deal of fun. Not perfect mind you, but fun none the less.
Where things stand with me today and it was a problem I had 22 years ago is that I just never felt like the book ever needed to be made into a movie, and certainly not a CGI kid-friendly action movie. The art of the original book was so beautiful and so rich that I felt if they were going to do a movie, modern effects just never felt appropriate. It always felt like a project more suited for stop-motion creations that would crawl out of the mind of someone like Ray Harryhausen. CGI effects were still in their infancy in 1995 and while there are plenty of practical effects to go around, the digital work still doesn't do it for me. When you have our cast of characters very clearly running away from greenscreen effects, it's hard to feel much suspense.
However, what I do appreciate is the sense of adventure this film carries. If there's one thing I will always tip my hat to Joe Johnston for is the fact that the man knows how to depict fearless adventure. From The Rocketeer to Captain America: The First Avenger, Johnston has always maintained an eye for pacing and action that keeps things rolling forward without shortchanging characters. Hell, even Jurassic Park III had its moments - if it'd had a better script maybe it would have been a better movie but that's another thing unto itself. These movies were designed to be fun. And that's all Jumanji is - plain and simple family-friendly fun that isn't complicated or demanding that you could put on after dinner to keep the kiddos quiet for 90 minutes.
Looking at Jumanji today, it's hard not to watch it and feel that sense of loss after the sad passing of Robin Williams. This is especially the case when viewing the quality of his films and T.V. work just before his death, he really was a unique talent and his wild jungle man Alan Parrish is a crazy joy. When that bearded face pops up on the screen after finally escaping from the board game, I'll admit a misty-eyed smile stretched across my face. Williams was a natural-born entertainer. Watching Jumanji again just made me want to dig out my Blu-ray of Hook -- as they're very similar colorful fun movies featuring Williams at his best childlike self.
I may not love Jumanji as a movie and admittedly I'm not really looking forward to the upcoming reboot flick, but I can't deny I enjoyed myself. As the holiday season nears and I will be surrounded by little screaming land piranha needing to be entertained, I started wondering if they hadn't seen this movie? It provides great entertainment value in a tight and neat little package. I know a few kids who should have a good time with this one, while the adults in the room dip into the spiked eggnog. If you haven't seen this one in awhile, don't expect to fall in love with it, just go along for the ride and have the best time you can. It's not a classic by any means, but it's a good time if you're willing to just have some fun.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Jumanji arrives in this restored Blu-ray + Digital set. Pressed onto a region free BD-50 disc, the Blu-ray is housed in a standard sturdy snapper Blu-ray case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads to a static image main menu featuring traditional navigation options.
Having never purchased the previous Blu-ray releases of Jumanji, after reading some reviews of that transfer I can only guess at how much of an improvement this recently restored 1080p 1.85:1 transfer has to offer. As I haven't actively sat down to watch this movie since the early days of DVD, I'd have to say that this presentation is pretty damned impressive. Not picture perfect mind you, but pretty damn good. With a notable film grain presence, the image exhibits a terrific amount of clarity and detail. The opening scenes within the Parrish Shoe Factory are particularly impressive. When young Allan finds the game and brings it home, you can clearly see and appreciate the intricate detail works of the game board and its pieces. Clothing and production design also maintains a strong presence.
Colors look genuinely pretty good here, outdoor scenes have a great amount of primary pop and look terrific. I thought skin tones could be a bit on the pale side at times, but when it counts the cast looks healthy without being too pink or flushed. Black levels are strong, perhaps a bit thick at times, but nothing appears crushed and there is an appreciable sense of depth. The drawback of this transfer are the CGI visual effects. While it's not a lot easier to see and appreciate the great animatronics and practical effects, those digital jobs really stick out. Those monkeys are especially atrocious looking. Obviously, that's a cooked in issue and if that's the only bad thing I can say about this transfer then that's not all that bad at all.
Like the video transfer for this Blu-ray, I never experienced the previous DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix so I can't say if this one has been improved or not. However, if I had to be a betting man I would roll the dice that this is the same mix as the previously available Blu-ray. While it gets the job done, it's rather unimpressive in the overall scheme of things. There is surround activity but it never feels like much care was put into spacing as most of the sound effects, dialogue, and James Horner's terrific score all feel very front loaded. Thankfully dialogue is clear and easy to hear throughout. Sound effects can be robust and offer excitement when it counts, but again, there isn't a whole lot of imaging going on here so the amount of channel movement feels restrained. The call of the game, that low drum beat that urges the kids to find the game and play it, never really comes to life in a way that feels impactful. You can hear it, but it's nothing impressive. Like I said, this isn't a terrible mix by any stretch, it gets the job done.
Bucking the trend of late, Sony has decided to deliver a bunch of bonus features with this release. While some are carried over from the previous Blu-ray, there's a bunch of new bonus features listed in the HD Bonus Content section that will keep fans occupied for a little while - even if some of it is promotional stuff for the upcoming reboot movie.
For a breakdown of the previously available bonus features listed below, check out our review of the 2015 release Here.
Making Jumanji: The Realm of Imagination
Jumanji Motion Storybook
Lions and Monkeys and Pods Oh My!
Bringing Down the House
Jumanji: The Animated Series
Jumanji was never the big favorite for me that it was for some of the kids that I went to school with. I was just a tad too old to really appreciate it. As an adult, I've come to appreciate the sense of humor and adventure the film brings to the screen. Robin Williams is in his element and the film itself feels like a fitting companion to the terrific children's book. Sony has done right by this film by finally giving it the long-needed restoration it has deserved. This Blu-ray is a terrific package featuring a strong A/V presentation and a bunch of bonus features. If you're a fan of the film, this is an easy one to call highly recommended. Even if you bought the previous release from 2011, this new disc makes a double-dip an easy call to make.