Family fun can’t get any more intense than this. Back in 1869, some boys are burying a chest, and it locked tight. This burden they are trying to get rid of seems to be cursed, and they hope no one ever finds it again. One hundred years later, in Brantford, New Hampshire, a boy of about 12-13 is being chased by some other boys. Alan Parrish (Adam Hann-Byrd) is the son of the town’s wealthiest family, and one very popular boy, Billy Jessup (Gary Joseph Thorup), does not like the fact that not only is Alan a Parrish, but that he thinks he can be friends with Sarah Whittle (Laura Bell Bundy), the cute blond girl at school that Billy has claimed to be his girlfriend. Alan escapes into the Parrish Shoe Works, and is chastised by his father, Sam Parrish (Jonathan Hyde) about Billy. What Sam does not know is that Billy has a gang of bullies outside waiting to beat up Alan. Sam declines Alan’s request for a ride home, and goes back outside. He gets roughed up by Billy and his gang. When the bullies leave, he hears a noise that sounds like jungle drums. He follows the drums and finds the source of the sound buried in the construction site where Parrish Shoes is having an annex built. In the chest, he finds a beautiful African-themed game board marked “Jumanji”. He takes the game home, and he still is at odds with his father, even though Sam apologises for not know that Billy had a gang set to beat Alan up. Alan’s parents go out for some kind of formal outing, and Alan decides that night that he is going to run away, because he is tired of being a Parrish, and living up to all the hype that comes with the name. As he is about to run out the door, Sarah comes over to return with Alan’s bicycle. She hears the Jumanji drums, and she and Alan start to play the game, but they did not read all the instructions. Some odd things start to happen. In one turn, Sarah unknowingly summons some bats. On Alan’s turn “In the jungle you must wait, until you roll a five or eight”, he gets sucked into the game board, and Sarah freaks out. The bats come out and attack her, and she runs out of the house screaming.
Fast foward to twenty-six years later, and we see the old Parrish house has a new owner. Nora Shepherd (Bebe Neuwirth) and her niece, Judy Shepard (Kirsten Dunst) and nephew, Peter Shepard (Bradley Pierce) have moved in. The kids’ parents recently died in a car crash, and they both have their ways of dealing with the pain. Judy tells tall tales, and Peter just does not talk to anyone, save for Judy. One day, as they are heading out for school, they hear the African drums, just as Alan had done decades before. They wait till Aunt Nora leaves, and go to investigate the source, and find the game in the attic. Again, odd things happen. One turn summons giant mosquitoes, another brings monkeys, and another brings a lion. When Peter rolls a 5, it brings Alan (now Robin Williams) back, but now he is fully-grown, and he looks like a wild jungle man. He wears a tunic made of hides, some sort of rain-repelling tarp made of banana leaves, and a turtle shell for a helmet. His hair is long and straggly, and so is his beard. After some mishaps in town, he goes back home and cleans up, and finds out that the kids have joined the game he started with Sarah back in 1969. To finish the game, they need to bring in Sarah (now Bonnie Hunt) and finish Jumanji so everything will go back to normal. They encounter everything from poisonous vines to a wild stampede of elephants, zebras, rhinoceroses, and pelicans. If it comes from an African safari adventure, it somehow got into this game. That includes a wild-eyed Botany Bay game hunter, Van Pelt (Jonathan Hyde) who has been chasing Alan down in all the time he was in the Jumanji game.
This is a roller-coaster ride of a great film, and even though the adventurous theme might be a bit scary for little kids, any kid from age 5 to 95 is going to love this wild ride when the world of Jumanji attempts to take over the town of Brantsford. It’s a fun movie that never gets tiring, and you can come back to it over and over again, and still see new things. Everyone should play Jumanji at some point.
I give this film a Musing review of