Jumanji (1995)

Genres - Children's/Family, Fantasy  |   Sub-Genres - Children's Fantasy, Fantasy Adventure  |   Release Date - Dec 15, 1995 (USA)  |   Run Time - 105 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Karl Williams

The imaginative children's novel by Chris Van Allsburg becomes this successful, if a bit too sour, big-budget action-adventure. The basic idea of Jumanji (1995) is certainly an inventive and exciting one: a board game in which a player can be literally drawn into a savage jungle world upon a losing roll of the dice. Where the film seems to go wrong is in having its milquetoast hero disappear for so long, only to reappear as a physically tougher but emotionally wounded adult played by Robin Williams. What this story needs is a sense of joy, of a small-minded town too concerned about appearances and normalcy getting its comeuppance. Instead, an underlying sense of tragedy (parents undone by a child's disappearance, other kids orphaned, childhood scars holding adults back from moving on in life) scuttles the whole endeavor. Director Joe Johnston has all the trappings just right, and the computer-generated critters are sufficiently frightening, exciting, and realistic. It's the film's somber emotional content that saps what should have been a wild ride of the giddy vibe that should have been fueling the trip.