a film review by Peter Knapp
Rating: 2 out of 4
Both Toy Story and Jumanji are effects-laden movies. The former is the
first full-length computer- generated animated movie; the latter uses computer animation to mix real and fantastical animals with live human actors. While both movies make extensive use of special effects, the end results differ drastically.
In Jumanji, a magical game of the the same name
encourages its participants to play the game through to its conclusion.
While participants can stop playing at any time, the damage done by previous
turns cannot be undone unless play continues. Early in the movie, a young
boy is sucked into the game itself. The girl playing with him is so freaked
out, she runs away, trapping the boy "inside" the game. Several years later,
two children start playing the game; and Robin Williams pops out -- the
young boy who had been sucked into the game years earlier has grown up
inside the game and must now convince his grown-up former gaming partner
to continue playing the game they started all those years ago. So, the
four gamers (two old, two young) must finish the game or suffer the consequences.
Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) created all the animals used in the
movie. With the exception of a few scenes using mechanical animals, most
of the animals are computer-generated. As you may know, ILM previously
created the computer-generated dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.
I knew the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park were special effects, but that
didn't matter. I found them believable, even when interacting with the
live human actors. (Of course, I didn't have a frame of reference to compare
the computer-generated dinosaurs against, so that may have helped me suspend
my disbelief.) Most of the animals in Jumanji were based on real ones;
and the computer-animated ones just didn't come close to the real ones.
I found the special effects (and there were a lot of them) deterred from
But the real problem with the movie is the premise. While watching the
four protagonists try to survive Jumanji, early on the audience learns
that if the characters play the game to its conclusion, everything that
has gone awry will be restored to the way it was before the game began.
This removed all tension for me, as every time something "bad" happened,
I knew by the end of the movie everything would be reversed if one of the
four won the game.
Joe Johnson directed Jumanji. He is probably best known for his special
effects work at ILM. More recently, he directed Rocketeer. I recently read
an interview with Joe Johnson in which he claimed he enjoys making movies
that are driven by the story as opposed to by the effects. That may have
been true of Rocketeer; but Jumanji turned into one big, unbelievable special
effect extravaganza. It's fun to watch, but not very satisfying.