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Joe Johnston
Robin Williams, Kirsten Dunst, Jonathan Hyde, Bradley Pierce, Bonnie Hunt, Bebe Neuwirth, David Alan Grier, Patricia Clarkson
Writing Credits:
Chris Van Allsburg (book), Chris Van Allsburg (screen story), Jonathan Hensleigh, Greg Taylor, Jim Strain

An Adventure For Those Who Seek To Find A Way To Leave Their World Behind.

When two kids find and play a magical board game, they release a man trapped for decades in it and a host of dangers that can only be stopped by finishing the game.

Box Office:
$65 million.
Domestic Gross
$100.200 million.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Thai Dolby Digital 5.1
Chinese Simplified
Chinese Traditional
Supplements Subtitles:
Chinese Simplified
Chinese Traditional

Runtime: 104 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 9/22/2015

• Audio Commentary with Special Effects Supervisor Ken Ralston, Special Makeup Designers/Animatronic Effects Developers Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis, Computer Imagery Supervisor Karl Frederick, Monkey Sequence Supervisor Doug Smythe, Computer Graphics Supervisor Ellen Coon and Computer Graphics Artist Jim Mitchell
• Motion Storybook
&bull: “Jumanji: The Animated Series” Episodes
• Virtual Board Game
• “Making Jumanji - The Realm of Imagination” Documentary
• SFX Featurette: “Lions, Monkeys and Pods… Oh My!”
• “Production Design: Bringing Down the House” Featurette
• Storyboard Comparisons
• “The Cast of Goosebumps Reflects on Jumanji” Featurette
Goosebumps Sneak Peek
• Original Teasers and Trailers


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Jumanji: Anniversary Edition [Blu-ray] (1995)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 15, 2015)

Adapted from a popular children’s novel, 1995’s Jumanji takes us to 1969. Young Alan Parrish (Adam Hann-Byrd) finds a mysterious board game called “Jumanji” and plays with his friend Sarah Whittle (Laura Bell Bundy).

It turns out that “Jumanji” boasts magical powers, and these trap Alan inside the game, where he remains until someone rolls 5 or 8. Since Sarah freaks out and flees when Alan gets sucked into the board, this doesn’t occur any time soon.

Actually, it takes 26 years, when orphans Judy (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter Shepherd (Bradley Pierce) move into the old Parrish house with their aunt Nora (Bebe Neuwirth). They find the game and start to play, an activity that eventually brings the now-adult Alan (Robin Williams) back to the real world.

Since the kids already unleashed creatures like lions and monkeys, they need to finish the game to restore order. It turns out the game can’t proceed without the participation of adult Sarah (Bonnie Hunt), so against her will, the kids and Alan cajole her into a continued game of “Jumanji”. Mayhem ensues.

I found myself rather impressed with Williams’ performance. He manages a lot of little moments in his portrayal of Alan Parrish, a twelve-year-old boy who was locked in a fantasy game universe for 26 years. Although Alan's now a man, Williams maintains a lot of the boy in him, which makes sense since Alan supposedly spent 26 years on his own in the jungle. He definitely wouldn't have had a very normal course of development.

Hann-Byrd doesn't look much like Williams, but it's uncanny the way Williams adopts the mannerisms and expressions of the younger actor to actually develop a resemblance. It's clear Williams put a lot of work into maintaining this relationship and it works very well, as I really believed Williams could be the older Alan. Williams gets in some funny lines, but it's nice to see him avoid the wired energy he usually displayed in comic parts. While entertaining, that sort of performance would have been inappropriate for the role. It's not a great part, but Williams does a nice job with it.

Really, Jumanji is a much better performed film than one would expect of such an effects-intensive fantasy. Hunt's one of the more witty and intelligent performers around, and she imbues Sarah with an appropriate level of neurosis - hey, seeing a kid swallowed by a board game can mess with your mind! - but she also makes the character likable and warm.

Dunst and Pierce are just fine as the "modern day" kids who find the game so long after the negative events of Alan and Sarah's childhoods. Neither really stands out but they definitely hold their own. Neuwirth and David Alan Grier also offer affable performances in supporting roles.

One notable aspect of Jumanji refers to its ending. Things wind up in a manner that easily could/should have been completely cloying and saccharine sweet, but you know what? I buy it.

Director Joe Johnston seems good at handling sentimental moments that could come across as unpleasantly artificial in other hands, and Jumanji works along those lines. Emotional moments are depicted tastefully and not given overemphasis to tweak a particular response from the audience.

Ironically, the weakest link in the Jumanji chain relates to its special effects. This was a big-budget film that went for what should have been state of the art in 1995, but the effects almost always seem fake and unbelievable. This isn't just the hindsight of 20 years speaking, as I felt that way when I saw the movie theatrically as well. Sure, they’ve aged poorly, but they were never that great when they were new.

What's wrong with the effects? Partly it's what I feel to be a bad production decision. Most of the effects depict the various animals - lions, monkeys, pelicans, rhinos, etc. - that spew from the game and the filmmakers went for a stylized depiction of these creatures rather than make them "photorealistic”. Apparently this move was motivated to make the images more in line with a "child's imagination”.

That's all well and good but it doesn't work. The animals look realistic enough to create the impression they're supposed to duplicate the actual creatures, but they go far enough toward the stylistic that they look distinctly artificial. At no point do the animals even remotely appear to be alive and real.

Stylistic decisions aside, I feel the effects simply don't seem very well-integrated with the film's universe. I remained acutely conscious of the fact these were effects and never was able to suspend my disbelief. That's unusual for me; I grew up on effects films and it's not difficult at all for me to ignore many flaws if I'm into the film. I enjoyed Jumanji and should have been able to get past the problems with the images, but I just couldn't do it.

Nonetheless, Jumanji is a good movie that ultimately overcomes those issues. Is it a classic? No, but I find it to be an enjoyable little comic action/fantasy picture that provides solid entertainment for all ages, as they say.

The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Jumaji appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Expect a mixed bag.

Arguably the biggest problem came from edge haloes, as those cropped up more often than I’d like. These seemed most obvious during interiors, but they marred other scenes as well. Overall sharpness appeared fairly good, but the haloes could give the film a bit of a tentative feel, and wider shots also displayed lackluster delineation.

I saw no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and grain appeared natural. As for print flaws, a handful of specks popped up, but nothing major marred the image.

Colors could be a little subdued but they came across nicely within the film’s palette. The tones seemed full and rich, with good accuracy much of the time. Blacks were deep and firm, but I sometimes found the image to appear overly dark, which I think was a result of the original production design.

Actually, I believe the filmmakers kept things shadowy to hide the flaws of the computer imagery as much as possible; the brighter the setting, the more obvious the fakery. Unfortunately, this didn't work very well, since the CGI still looked poor, and the remainder of the movie appeared too dark. Shadow detail wasn't bad but suffered from this overall issue; dimly lit scenes often were a little hard to watch. The image remained more than watchable but fell short of Blu-ray related expectations.

I felt more pleased with the film's DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. The only real issue I took with this mix concerned its soundfield. While effective, I felt it seemed too heavily biased toward the front speakers and that the mix didn't take advantage of some good opportunities for solid surround sound. For example, the scene were the giant mosquitoes entered kept them almost entirely in the front; they could have really buzzed around the room and made the segment even more exciting.

Still, the track did present a reasonably good soundstage. Audio was balanced well between channels and lacked an overly speaker-specific presentation.

Quality usually seemed positive. Only a little edginess occurred, so most of the dialogue appeared natural and distinctive. Effects and music were well reproduced and showed nice range. The many effects scenes worked nicely, and the drums that were the game's calling card seemed wonderfully deep and ominous. While I'd prefer a little more ambition in regard to this track's surround usage, it's still a good mix that you should find quite satisfying.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2006 Deluxe Edition DVD? Audio was warmer and fuller, and visuals seemed tighter and cleaner. I wish the Blu-ray didn't come with its flaws – primarily its edge haloes – but it still acts as a step up from the DVD.

The Blu-ray mixes old and new supplements, and we open with a running audio commentary from a wide variety of personnel who worked on the film's special effects. We hear from special effects supervisor Ken Ralston, special makeup designers/animatronic effects developers Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis, computer imagery supervisor Karl Frederick, monkey sequence supervisor Doug Smythe, computer graphics supervisor Ellen Coon and computer graphics artist Jim Mitchell. It sounded like only Woodruff and Gillis appear together; I think everyone else was recorded separately and this commentary results from an edited compilation of those interviews.

Based on that lineup, you won’t be surprised to learn that various nuts and bolts aspects of filmmaking dominate this track. We get many comments about computer generated imagery but also learn a fair amount about animatronics, practical effects, and various other kinds of movie magic.

Obviously this means that if you’re not interested in that information, you won’t want to listen to the track. If you do want to learn more about effects, though, this is a good piece. It can become a little technical and dry at times, but not nearly as frequently as I’d expect.

Indeed, the commentary usually proves to be lively and engaging. In addition to the raw data, we get nice insights such as how the actors work with the elements and who does it best in Hollywood. Many of the participants have served on other notable shows, and they occasionally reflect on those. This commentary ends up as surprisingly enjoyable.

One question arises, though: whatever happened to the Jumanji sequel Ralston planned to direct? He mentions it here, but years later, it seems to have vanished without a trace.

After this we find a documentary called Making Jumanji - The Realm of Imagination. This 20-minute, four-second piece covers some general aspects of the film's creation. We see movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. The latter include remarks from Woodruff, Gillis, director Joe Johnston, producer Scott Kroopf, production designer James Bissell, ILM’s Mark Miller, and actors Robin Williams, Bonnie Hunt, Kirsten Dunst, David Alan Grier, and Bradley Pierce. We find a basic overview of the story and characters, effects issues, the atmosphere during the shoot, set design and related topics, and how the actors dealt with the various complications.

“Realm” definitely falls into the category of "studio promotional puff-piece" but it seems enjoyable and moderately informative nonetheless. We get some fun cracks from Hunt and Williams plus a lot of good footage from the set. It ain't a thorough documentary, but it's interesting and informative.

Next up is a special effects featurette called Lions and Monkeys and Pods... Oh My! This 14-minute and 34-second program focuses on the same issues discussed in the commentary, except now we get visuals as well and we're treated to a lot of behind the scenes footage that illustrates the creation of the visuals. We get notes from Miller, Woodruff, maquette sculptor Richard Miller, and CG supervisors Carl Frederick and Doug Smythe. It's a lot of fun, mainly due to all the clips of how they created the effects.

The next featurette sticks to production design. It's called Bringing Down the House and spends three minutes and five seconds with production designer Jim Bissell as he runs through issues about the house where much of the action in Jumanji takes place. It's brief but useful.

Storyboard Comparisons come for three scenes: "Bats" (one minute, 32 seconds), "Rhino Stampede" (1:13), and "Earthquake" (0:55). I think these work well. We see the boards themselves, which dominate the TV screen – though windowboxed on 16X9 sets - with a small inset of the actual scene in the lower right corner. This is about the best board-to-film comparison technique I've seen and it makes the presentation work nicely.

For a look at the novel, we get a Motion Storybook. This runs eight minutes, 59 seconds and lets us hear parts of the original text as read by author Chris Van Allsburg. It’s a quick but fun addition.

After this we see two episodes of Jumanji: The Animated Series. We get its first two programs: “The Price” (23:36) and “Bargaining for Time” (21:43). The show lacks the main actors from the original – and omits the Bonnie Hunt character entirely – but it does boast some interesting voice talent, and guest stars showed up as well. Neither episode found here seems especially entertaining, but it’s fun to see them.

Jumanji Jungle Adventure offers a “virtual board game”. Meant for two to four players, “Jungle” asks trivia questions as you attempt to get to the center of the board. The items cover nature and animals. Some minor enjoyment may result from this, but don’t expect much.

As a tie-in with the 2015 film, we get The Cast of Goosebumps Reflects on Jumanji. It goes for five minutes, 19 seconds and offers comments from actors Dylan Minnette and Ryan Lee. They tell us what they like about Jumanji and why it remains popular. This exists to promote Goosebumps - which becomes more obvious because Lee and Minnette only talk for two minutes before we get a preview for Goosebumps. That promo also stands on its own (3:01).

Finally, the disc finishes with trailers for Jumanji. We find the US theatrical ad, the international clip and an international teaser.

After 20 years, the special effects of Jumanji look awfully creaky, but the movie still provides enough fun to make it enjoyable. It delivers a fun adventure. The Blu-ray presents good picture and supplements but picture quality seems erratic. I’d prefer a better visual transfer, but this one works well enough to mostly satisfy.

To rate this film, visit the Deluxe DVD review of JUMANJI

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main