Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Day Fifty - Jumanji, or "Surprisingly romantic and layered for a family movie."

Most family adventure movies tend to rely heavily on the cheese factor, especially when it comes to one-liners and sight gags. Where Robin Williams is involved, you'd think that would most certainly be the case. Especially when you consider some of his other 90's roles like Mrs.Doubtfire and Flubber, both misses that seem to show up regularly as low rent Saturday afternoon movies.

It's because of those titles that folks often miss his rather varied 90's catalog that is filled with gems like Jack, The Birdcage, Good Will Hunting, Bicentennial Man, and... Jumanji.

I really love this film both for breaking traditional plot structure (by having not one, but TWO prologue chapters) and for not forcing its child characters to have cutsey, cliche problems. There's a lot of darkness in these kids lives... from violent bullying to parental death and separation to the very real and scary thought of institutionalization.

For the most part, all of those issues are mostly asides during actual plot progression, but they're not without merit to the motivations of both sets of children.

Additionally, there's great symbolism involved when it comes to how Jumanji plays on the fears of its participants. This is most obvious and played to great effect when it comes to The Great White Hunter, Van Pelt, who is performed by Jonathan Hyde who plays both Van Pelt and Alan's father Sam Parrish. It's a great reversal of the protector/antagonist role of the parent.

Jumanji was also a good film for its lead actresses to shine, as I adore Bonnie Hunt's flaky fake psychic and Kirstin Dunst's sweet and protective early teen who is also a pathological liar. I really can't say the same for Bonnie's younger self, played by Laura Bell Bundy, but oh well.

Now, of course the CGI is obviously dated, but for the most part it holds up. The same could be said for most of the film's puppetry. I can't exactly get behind the cheap plastic spiders towards the climax, but the poisonous jungle vines and the lion work pretty darn well. Granted, both are created using a hybrid of CGI and practical effects, but still.

And the rhino who lags behind the stampede is just too adorable.

I think my only problem with the film is the disappearance of David Alan Grier after he and Bebe Neuwirth end up on wooden doors during the flood sequence. She manages to show back up to the house for a nice freakout scene, but David's "Soul-man" character, who's spent a great deal of the film chasing down the Jumanji players (Alan, particularly), is nowhere to be seen until after the universe reset at the Christmas Party.

That, to me, was quite a let down.

Still, Jumanji is a great film, even if it's showing its age and I very much recommend it as a family feature, even if it CAN be a little dark (there's a madman running around with high-powered rifles for half the movie, for crying out loud!).

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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