A loud and flashy distraction. Jumanji is part comedy, part action-adventure, and part horror film. The title (which loosely translates to “Many Things”) refers to an evil board game. At each roll of the dice, a jungle obstacle or adversary appears in the real world, and must be overcome. In 1969, a boy, Alan Parish, and his girlfriend begin to play the game. Soon thereafter, Alan is sucked into the jungle itself, and his friend runs away terrified. Cut to the present day. Two orphans, Kirsten Dunst and Bradley Pierce, discover the game in the dusty attic of their new house, and continue the game Alan started in 1969. After summoning some evil creatures, the two manage to free Alan Parish, now an adult (Robin Williams). As luck has it, the trio can’t banish the effects of the game until someone wins, so they enlist the help of Alan’s old girlfriend, now a highly irritating adult (Bonnie Hunt), and try to reach Jumanji. Robin Williams is allowed free rein for only a few minutes of the movie. The rest of it is left in the hands of the special effects. That’s too bad. While plentiful and creating quite a ruckus, most of the computer generated plants and animals seemed rather phony. More enjoyment can be taken from the human exploits of bumbling cop David Alan Grier, and befuddled aunt Bebe Neuwirth. Part of the problem also lies with the directing. Whereas the action and excitement call for taut, tension-generating direction (see Jurassic Park), instead Joe Johnston delivers a confused frenzy, focusing on so many different elements that he never creates the claustrophobic intensity required. What Jumanji delivers is an hour and 40 minutes of distracting entertainment, forgotten soon after viewing.
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