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When two kids play an old magic board-game they found, they release a man trapped for decades in it and a host of dangers that can only be stopped by finishing the game.
For more about Jumanji and the Jumanji Blu-ray release, see Jumanji Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on June 29, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Joe Johnston
Writer: Jonathan Hensleigh
Starring: Robin Williams, Bonnie Hunt, Kirsten Dunst, Bradley Pierce, Bebe Neuwirth, Jonathan Hyde
» See full cast & crew
Jumanji Blu-ray Review
Win or die.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, June 29, 2011
You should always face what you're afraid of.
Imagine a family board game where the stakes of every roll of the dice are far greater than being forcibly moved back a few spaces, paying a hefty fine, or landing in a figurative jail. What if instead of losing a piece, sinking a plastic one-inch battleship, or failing to answer a question, the consequences of each turn were literally life and death, as the playing arena comes alive with every move and threatens to tear apart the very fabric of time and place, altering the environment and even the players themselves, with every roll ringing in not only the next player's turn but a new physically harmful and death-defying challenge? Such is the premise of Jumanji, an exciting smorgasbord of originality and special effects that puts a decidedly deadly but at the same time full-on fun spin on family game night. For ages eight and up; don't try this at home; play only with parental supervision; warning: Jumanji may cause irreparable harm to players and their environment; for Heaven's sake, put this game away; don't you dare; oh yes you did; it's so on. Don't say we didn't warn you.
In 1969 New Hampshire, young Alan Parrish (Adam Hann-Byrd) one day discovers a long-since buried board game at a local construction site. Following a fight with his shoe factory-owning father, he threatens to run away and never speak to him again. Before hitting the road with a suitcase full of clothes, bread, and peanut butter, he opens up his new toy -- a game oddly entitled "Jumanji" -- and, in the presence of a young neighbor girl named Sarah (Laura Bell Bundy), is pulled into the game, never to be heard from again. Twenty-six years later, the Parrish's house is but an empty shell. An out-of-towner and her niece Judy and nephew Peter (Kirsten Dunst and Bradley Pierce) move in with the intention of turning the old house into a posh bed and breakfast. Before school one day, Judy and Peter hear a mysterious thump-thump-thump emanating from a dusty attic. They're surprised to find that it's a board game calling to them, and little do they know the consequences the first roll of the dice will bring. One move leads to another, and before they know it, they've unleashed killer mosquitoes and a man-child whom they discover to be the long-lost occupant of the house, Alan Parish (Robin Williams). Unfortunately, they learn that only by one of them winning the game will they be able to restore order and reset things as they once were, but winning means playing, and playing means utter chaos.
If Jumanji's greatest asset is its originality, its second greatest asset is the delicate balancing act Director Joe Johnston maintains throughout the film. Not only can Jumanji be flat-out frightening and darkly serious with every roll and each passing frame, it manages to be playfully fun and highly intoxicating at the same time. The film walks that fine tightrope with every shot, and does so with confidence. Robin Williams proves to be the perfect fit for the movie and it's consistent up-down roller-coaster-ride tone. He's more than capable of playing things light as a boy trapped in a man's body, but he also demonstrates the wherewithal to handle the picture's more sinister side with equal charisma and physical skill. His co-stars manage the same, too, playing their parts with a deadly serious posture as they battle all sorts of natural elements and creatures, but at the same time they prove more than proficient at going with the flow and playing with the underlying humor and wink-and-a-nod attitude that carries the film and allows it to play equally scary and equally fun. The film is a veritable fountain of energy; it builds and builds and builds some more, with most any of the many intensive segments seeming like the perfect climax, only to be topped by something all the more outrageous yet easily plausible given that the film's very premise allows for it to continue to go over the top with every passing moment.
With Jumanji, then, a literal haven for the stuff of cartoonish nightmares come true, it's no surprise that the picture is a hotbed of impressive special effects. Plants that are capable of crushing cars, monkeys that can drive motorcycles, herds of large animals rampaging through the streets, floodwaters overtaking a house, a lion napping on a bed, mosquitoes the size of buzzards and as deadly as a kitchen knives swarming about, and a host of additional creepy and creepy-crawly jungle-like elements all play a critical part in making the movie work. Indeed, the effects artists have put in plenty of overtime in making Jumanji such a success; rarely can a movie withstand this much raw effects work and succeed, but here's one "kitchen sink" movie where, when even all the options and special effects have been all but exhausted, the audience will be left craving more. Sure it's all over the top, but the skill with which it's done, the original plot in which it is based, and the delicateness through which the film maneuvers that allows it to go crazy without appearing crazy all play a critical part in allowing it to work so well. This is good old fashioned spectacle-as-entertainment done right.
Jumanji Blu-ray, Video Quality
Jumanji's Blu-ray debut is a shaky one, but at the end of the day the image earns a passing grade. Sony's 1080p release of this sixteen-year-old film definitely sports some warts -- it looks a bit overly processed and features some harmful edge halos -- but it's for the most part otherwise routinely stable and nice looking. Fine detailing and general crispness and clarity tend to waver a bit; fine definition in groups of leaves, for instance, never really move beyond appearing clumpy and mushy, but more general close-in textures -- faces, clothes, and the like -- are quite good. In fact, the transfer does a remarkably good job during the critical close-up shots of the board game; it looks nicely worn, and the 1080p image brings out the finest little details in the general wear and tear, stains, accumulated grime, and the wooden texturing of both the game board and built-in case quite nicely. Colors are sturdy and well-balanced, with the image handling the bright greens and yellows and blues that abound all over the frame with ease, while also delivering neutral flesh tones and generally stable blacks. A bit of film grain is present over the image, and aside from a few random white pops, the print is in very good shape. This isn't a perfect transfer by a long shot, and it could definitely do without some of the lingering edge enhancement, but all said it's a pleasant and watchable transfer that's definitely a marked improvement over previous standard-definition releases.
Jumanji Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Jumanji arrives on Blu-ray with a crowd-pleasing, potent, and ever-active DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. There's definitely no shortage of volume and activity with this one. This is a big, roaring listen that throws as much at the audience sonically as picture does visually. It's not quite as naturally pristine as might be a more modern track, but this one's nonetheless a whole lot of fun and is guaranteed to give even the best sound systems a hearty workout. From the film's open, it's evident that the track means business. The surrounds are used extensively, carrying not only natural ambience but music and sound effects, too. The heavy drumbeat Jumnaji game board calling card is way over the top, a bit sloppy, but highly effective on the senses in a raw sort of way. The soundstage comes alive with every natural attack, whether mosquitos that zip through the soundstage, water that spills in from every direction, or stampeding herds that crush everything in their path as they traverse from one speaker to the next. This is the very definition of a track that's an assault on the aural senses. It could certainly use a touch of refinement, but the impossibly loud and always-exciting sensation more than makes up for any technical shortcomings. Rounded out by center-specific dialogue that's never forced to compete with music or effects, Jumanji's lossless soundtrack may be labeled a winner.
Jumanji Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Jumanji brings a small stampede's worth of extras onto Blu-ray, the collection headlined by a comprehensive, multi-participant special effects audio commentary track.
Jumanji Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Jumanji cuts no corners and never shies away from bombarding audiences with everything in its arsenal. That usually spells trouble, but not here. The very premise allows for the filmmakers to go overboard, to place their characters in one helpless situation after another, and come out of it all with a smile on their faces but still rocking and ready to face the next challenge. This is a crowd-pleaser if there ever was one; it's fine entertainment, original through and through, and a highly enjoyable escapist fantasy that's suitable for all but the youngest and most impressionable of viewers. Sony's Blu-ray release of Jumanji does everything well but nothing perfectly. Decent picture quality, strong lossless sound, and a nice helping of extras round this into a quality, but not quite exceptional, Blu-ray release. Still, it comes with a hearty recommendation.
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