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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Jumanji: Deluxe Edition (1995)

Alan: You have no idea what you're getting yourself into.
Peter: Whatever it is, we'll handle it ourselves. We don't need your help.

- Robin Williams, Bradley Pierce

Review By: Nate Meyers  
Published: November 07, 2005

Stars: Robin Williams, Jonathan Hyde, Kirsten Dunst, Bradley Pierce, Bonnie Hunt
Other Stars: Bebe Neuwirth, David Alan Grier, Patricia Clarkson, Adam Hann-Boyd, Laura Bell Bundy
Director: Joe Johnston

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: PG for menacing fantasy action, some mild language
Run Time: 01h:44m:00s
Release Date: November 08, 2005
UPC: 043396125414
Genre: adventure


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B+B+B- B

DVD Review

Joe Johnston's movies are some of the most fun I've had at the theater over the past 15 years. Pretentious storytelling never bogs him down, nor does he allow the special effects to overwhelm a sense of excitement and adventure. Jumanji, based on the children's book by Chris Van Allsburg, is a joyful movie that brims with imagination and a child's sense of wonder. The cast and crew breathe so much energy into the movie that I still find myself just as entranced by its magic as I was when first watching it ten years ago.

In the late 19th century, two young boys bury Jumanji, a game that seems to be alive and actively seeking out players. Exactly 100 years later, the timid Allan Parish (Adam Hann-Boyd) is drawn to the game on his way home from school and innocently begins to play it with the popular girl next door, Sarah (Laura Bell Bundy). However, things start to go awry once the dice roll and Allan finds himself literally sucked into the board game, while Sarah is attacked by a swarm of bats. There's no exposition to explain the game's origins; rather, the screenplay plunges us straight into the adventure and moves along like a stampede.

The story resumes 26 years after Allan and Sarah's trauma, with the orphaned Judy (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter (Bradley Pierce) moving into the abandoned Parrish residence. Both children are deeply troubled by the passing of their parents, with Peter leading a somber existence and Judy acting up by playing pranks on adults. Consequently, when they alert their Aunt Nora (Bebe Neuwirth), to the bats in the attic, she does not believe them. Exasperated, Nora leaves them at home alone while she goes to work, and once again Jumanji lures two unsuspecting children to its board. While playing, the siblings unleash gigantic mosquitoes, troublesome monkeys, a lion, and even Allan. Now a grown man (played by Robin Williams), Allan emerges from the jungle as a rugged survivor who knows the mysteries of the game better than anyone else. Looking to leave the past behind and come to terms with his new life, Allan once again is forced to play the game, as Judy and Peter have only continued the one already in progress. Re-enlisting Sarah (now played by Bonnie Hunt), still emotionally distraught by her first stab at the game, Allan leads the quartet as they struggle against the elements.

Filled with dazzling special effects, the movie follows Allan as he fights to overcome his crippling fears. There's a parallel between his youth and adulthood, represented by actor Jonathan Hyde. Playing both the young Allan's stern father and the older Allan's archnemesis Van Pelt, a hunter dead-set on killing him, Hyde takes on the role of the story's antagonist with glee. The script makes good use of Hyde's dual performance, fleshing out the movie's theme that eventually everybody needs to face their fears and take responsibility for themselves. It's a solid message for kids, easy for them to grasp without insulting an adult's intelligence. Each of the actors is fine in their role, with Williams lending an assured lead performance that cements the wild adventure in human drama.

However, the real stars are the special effects wizards that bring all the various creatures to life. While some of the CGI effects are obvious a decade later, they still look impressive and work to convey a sense of energy. A stampede of rhinos destroying a house (and much of the city) looks fresh, and the monkeys, although not exactly realistic, add a great touch of comic relief when they hijack a police squad car. Mixing the CGI shots with practical effects to tear the Parrish house apart during an earthquake and create a fully engrossing monsoon, Johnston creates a rousing spectacle. This is not a film designed to advance the art of visual effects, but to put existing techniques to good use.

Many critics panned Jumanji upon its release in 1995 as mindless tripe for the masses. Perhaps they are correct, since none of its ideas are novel and the movie seems content with being little more than a good romp. I can't pretend that this is great art, but it's great entertainment.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: I've never seen the previous DVD releases of Jumanji and cannot say if this is a new transfer. My suspicion, however, is that the 1.85:1 anamorphic image is identical to the previous Collector's Series release, based largely on the surprising amount of grain by today's DVD standards (especially during the opening credits). Otherwise, this is a pretty nice looking picture. Detail is sharp, contrast is nice, and colors look accurate. There's a pleasant sense of depth to the picture, very filmlike.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French, Portuguese, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 is another likely carry-over from the previous DVD. Dialogue is always audible and the musical score permeates very nicely from all sides. Some sound separation and directionality do occur, but not as much as you might expect. Audio during the major action scenes is too juiced to be enjoyable and all the various sound effects blend together.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Zathura, Stuart Little 3 DVD & Video, Open Season
1 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
Storyboard
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Carl N. Frederick, Alec Gillis, Jim Mitchell, Ellen Poon, Ken Ralston, Doug Smythe, Tom Woodruff, Jr.
Packaging: Amaray Double
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Slip Cover—a cardboard slip over the Double Amaray packaging, which opens up to be a board game (pieces can be assembled from the insert).
  2. Free Zathura Ticket—a free ticket to see the upcoming movie in theaters.
  3. Interactive Games—three games based in part on the movie, found on disc one.
  4. Photo Galleries—various galleries chronicling the film's special effects and production design.
Extras Review: This new "deluxe edition" sports a mixture of brand-new special features and extras from the previous DVD release. Spread across two discs packaged in a double Amaray keep case, the set comes with a cardboard slipcover that folds out to reveal a replica of the Jumanji board game. The game can actually be played with the game pieces provided with the insert (just cut them out and you're ready to go). Another selling point for this DVD is a free ticket to see the quasi-sequel Zathura. Further promoting the forthcoming theatrical release, the teaser for Zathura is presented on Disc 1, along with the trailers for Stuart Little 3 and Open Season.

Also on the first disc are three interactive games. Secrets & Riddles is a trivia game about events in the movie, with 25 questions and various clips from the film. The Extreme Book of Nature is billed as a game, but is more of an educational feature that describes certain features of animals portrayed in the movie. Finally, Ancient Diversion is a guide to performing various magic tricks. There's a warning that parents should watch it with their kids, but I honestly can't imagine why.

In terms of special features that movie buffs will appreciate, the visual effects crew provides an audio commentary. Everybody does an excellent job describing their work while making it accessible to laymen. This is a very technical commentary, with only occasional information about the actors and such, so don't expect a great deal of anecdotal or humorous remarks. It's quite interesting, with just about every major member of the crew participating. Also, there is no isolated score on this DVD release, so beware of that if you're contemplating selling your Collector's Edition DVD.

Over on Disc 2, you'll find a documentary and some featurettes. Making Jumanji: The Realm of Imagination (20m:02s) is a publicity promo from 1995. It offers a lot of information about the special effects, showing how they were created on the set and in the computer, alongside cast interviews. Robin Williams does his usual crazy antics in his interview, but there are some good behind-the-scenes portions of the cast and crew working. Following that is Lions and Monkeys and Pods...Oh My!: The Special Effects of Jumanji (14m:32s), which expands more on the documentary and commentary. There are various clips of test footage of the animatronic figures, but otherwise this is fairly repetitive. The other featurette, Bringing Down the House (03m:04s), is an interview with production designer Jim Brissell, who goes through the various designs contemplated for the movie, as well as the models and sets created for shooting.

Rounding out the special features are three storyboard comparisons and various photo galleries. The storyboards play alongside the completed scene of the bat attack, rhino stampede, and earthquake. It is interesting to see the evolution of the visuals, dramatized even further by the photo galleries. Conceptual art and production stills make up six different galleries.



Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

A joyful movie, Jumanji: Deluxe Edition is a well-packaged DVD, but not necessarily worth a double dip. However, if you don't own the prior release, I highly recommend this set.

 


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