Jumanji is such a gem of a movie, I can’t believe I hadn’t written about it sooner. After I saw this movie in the theater when I was a wee lass, my mom bought my brother and I the Jumanji board game. It looked exactly like the game in the movie except that it was made out of cardboard and not wood. And the pieces were plastic and not ivory. Oh and nothing exciting actually happened. One of the biggest letdowns of my life.
The movie starts with two boys burying a box in 1869. Coming from the box are the sounds of drums so the boys quickly bury it because, ya know, drums are scary. Flash forward to 1969 where we meet Alan Parish, a young boy who gets beat up because he’s rich and his dad owns a shoe company/sweat shop. Alan’s dad is a bit of a hard ass so he tells him to go outside and face his bullies. Like any normal person, Alan hides and ignores his dad because dads are so annoying. While doing so, he hears the sound of drums coming from a construction site and starts to dig toward the sound. He finds a chest and inside it is a box labeled Jumanji.
Alan’s dad informs him that he has signed Alan up for boarding school and he has to leave on Sunday. Annoying. Once Alan’s parents leave, he invites a girl, Sarah, over to make out but instead they end up playing Jumanji. Lame. The game is strange because the pieces move on their own, and since it was around before 1869, you have to assume there is some magic/voodoo/charms involved. Or magnets. Once a player roles, a glass window reveals a message on the board. It’s usually a rhyme telling the players what will happen. For example, Alan’s first role said “In the jungle you must wait, until the dice read five or eight.” So he gets sucked into the game, and Sarah is left alone with the creatures from her first roll, which were bats. She runs out of the house, never returning to finish the game. Bitch.
26 years later Judy (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter (Don’t know, don’t care) move into the old Parish house with their aunt Nora after their parents died in a car accident. They eventually find the Jumanji game in the attic because they hear the drums calling them. They pick up the pieces and drop them on the board–automatically adding themselves as players in the game with Sarah and Alan without knowing it. Judy roles and giant bugs come attack them, Peter rolls and monkeys come destroy their kitchen. The kids realize that for the madness to end, they have to finish the game.
Peter rolls a five which releases Alan from the game, but he is accompanied with a lion. They lock the lion in the room, look at Alan (who is now an adult) like he’s a crazed jungle maniac. Which he is. He also happens to be played by Robin Williams which is depressing, but it actually works. Alan calls out for his parents but he doesn’t understand that they’re dead, and he’s been missing for years. After that realization hits him, he decides to shave and get cleaned up. Like, “My parents are dead? Okay cool gonna go change and finish this board game.”
Alan tells the kids that they need Sarah to finish the game so they track her down (she’s conveniently living in her childhood home) and convince her to play the game with them. Well, Alan puts the dice in her hand and makes her drop them. I feel like that’s a Robin Williams thing to do. Alan wouldn’t have done that. Sarah is slightly crazy after watching Alan disappear into a board game and years of therapy, so you could see why she would be reluctant to join.
Her roll causes poisonous vines with dart flowers to grow all over the house. They’re one of my favorite things that emerge from the game. Kirsten Dunst eventually gets shot in the neck with one of the darts and it was a highlight of my childhood. Alan’s roll causes a hunter named Van Pelt to come forth to track down Alan and kill him.
Judy’s turn causes a stampede, Peter gets turned into a monkey man because he tries to cheat. There’s eventually a monsoon and a crocodile which always used to scare me. During all this time Peter and Judy’s aunt is aware that chaos has flooded the town and she sticks with the local police man who actually used to work at Parish Shoes (Alan’s dad’s factory). Isn’t this such a complex and wonderful story? Yes.
Sorry, almost done. Alan gets sucked into the floor because quicksand has formed, someone rolls an earthquake, and huge spiders come out of the woodwork after a roll. Just as Van Pelt is about to shoot Alan with his rifle, Alan drops the dice and he wins the game, causing all of the animals and Van Pelt himself, flying back into the box.
In that same moment, Alan and Sarah find themselves back in 1969, with the knowledge of everything that had happened. Judy and Peter hadn’t been born yet, and Alan was able to make amends with his father. Except he would still grow up to be Robin Williams no matter what. 😦