Williams is shitting himself IN FEAR!
JUMANJI is easy to dismiss. It was a big budget CGI spectacle starring Robin Williams about a jungle based board game that summoned a bunch of crappy looking CGI monkey. I remember DEVOURING it endlessly on VHS until I lost interest and the film moved into the graveyard of TBS Sunday morning oblivion.
I never realized how freaking BALLSY it was.
Second A.D: Lucio Fulci
Just sit and think about some of the ideas that are at play: Robin Williams (as a child) is trapped in a killer jungle for 26 years (!!!), the girl he played with has grown into a shattered motional wreck, and the creatures (and there’s a surprising large number of them) that spring from the game don’t want to frighten the players -they want to FUCKING KILL THEM and any hapless bystander that get in the way. We get killer plants, giant spiders, alligators and stampeding elephants and its all portrayed as a real threat. The film even tackles some big topics with a surprising amount of success (The father and the hunter are played by the same actor!? SUBTEXT!) for such a seemingly mindless blockbuster.
Oh, don't worry kids, she's just been..uh...killed...by giant mosquitoes.
Director Joe Johnston has always lived in the shadow of the big blockbuster players. He hasn't had the successes of the bearded one and he takes a lot of work for hire (THE WOLFMAN anyone?), but there’s a certain old school magic to his work. It would have been easy to play JUMAJI as a joke, get Williams to act all CRAZY-TIME and leave it at that. Instead, he treats everything with the right amount of gravitas to keep things fun and thrilling. Some of the CGI really doesn’t hold up (Those monkeys with the bulging eyes are nightmare inducing), but there’s a whole lot of prosthetic work to marvel at (Dig those giant spiders!) that give the film a charm you just don’t find in modern kids films
JUMANJI is an exciting, scary, and impressive special effects extraganza. It’s the kind of kids film that are rarely made: The ones that don’t treat its audience like idiots.
Oh, and check out the fantastic ZATHURA too while you’re at it too.