Thursday, September 6, 2018

Jumanji !!!

Jumanji (1995): adapted from the Chris Van Allsburg book by Chris Van Allsburg, Greg Taylor, Jim Strain, and Jonathan Hensleigh; directed by Joe Johnston; starring Robin Williams (Adult Alan Parrish), Jonathan Hyde (Van Pelt/ Alan's Dad), Kirsten Dunst (Judy Shepherd), Bradley Pierce (Peter Shepherd), Bonnie Hunt (Adult Sarah Whittle), Bebe Neuwirth Nora Shepherd), David Hyde Pierce (Carl), Adam Hann Byrd (Young Alan), and Laura Bell Bundy (Young Sarah):

Jumanji imagines its tale of a magical board game along the lines of any number of 'Forbidden Tome' horror stories over the decades. The movie may be seriocomic and star Robin Williams, but Jumanji the game is pretty horrifying for much of the movie's narrative. 

Jumanji's ground-breaking CGI looks terrible now, far worse than most stop-motion animation of decades past. The monkeys are especially terrible. But the movie, riffing on the Necronomicon and It's a Wonderful Life in equal measure, remains something of a curious hybrid of comedy and horror. Robin Williams is given almost nothing to work with comically; his desperate, traumatized character is one of his finest non-comic performances, delivered here in the midst of what should be comedy. 

Director Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer, Captain America: The First Avenger, and a lot of work on Spielberg movies) works some shocks into the material, though it really feels like this should have been set in the 1930's to play to his (period) strengths. A young Kirsten Dunst and Bradley Pierce are mostly non-annoying children; Bonnie Hunt doesn't have a lot to do. Recommended.

Jumanji: Welcome To the Jungle (2017): adapted from the Chris Van Allsburg book and the 1995 film by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, and Jeff Pinkner; directed by Jake Kasdan; starring Dwayne Johnson/ Alex Wolff (Spencer), Kevin Hart/ Ser'Darius Blain (Fridge), Jack Black/ Madison Iseman (Bethany), Karen Gillan/ Morgan Turner (Martha), Bobby Cannavale (Van Pelt), Rhys Darby (Nigel), and Nick Jonas/ Colin Hanks (Alex):

Genial, light action-comedy sequel of sorts to the 1995 movie about a reality-altering board game. Now the board game is a retro videogame cassette that pulls players into the world of Jumanji rather than vomiting up portions of the game world into the real world depending on the result of a roll of a dice.

Four high-school kids get dumped into the world of Jumanji and transformed into avatars from the game. This allows Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, and Kevin Hart to play at teen-aged personalities in adult (and in Black's case, gender-swapped) bodies. 

The Rock seems like he's auditioning for that Doc Savage movie that will never come. Things stay light, occasionally clever, and very CGI-heavy throughout. Rhys Darby (Murray on The Flight of the Conchords) appears as an NPC guide; would that there were more of him. Recommended.

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