It is now almost as much time since Jumanji was released as Alan Parrish spent lost in the world of the menagerie summoning, drum-beat accompanied board game.
Unleashed in ’95 alongside a returning James Bond in Goldeneye, a new dawn of animation with Toy Story, and the garish blockbuster stylings of franchise threequel Batman Forever, Joe Johnston’s fantasy adventure hardly bust blocks with its tepid bow of $11m at the US box-office and middling reviews.
However, like the strangling vines that slowly engulf the house on Jefferson Street, Jumanji crept towards to the magic $100m mark, and in the intervening quarter of a century has firmly taken hold to make it a cherished family favourite, subsequently rolling double dice on two terrific sequels.
Jumanji is the kind of mid-level blockbuster that doesn’t really get made these days for fear of getting lost among the Marvels or a Star War. Even with its sequel baiting ending and reasonable success, it took a long time for that box to be dug from the sand and repackaged as a console game for Welcome to the Jungle.
Can you spot all the best Jumanji references from the 1995 original?
To celebrate this magical fun-filled jungle caper, talented illustrator Brett Jones has created the perfect quiz for all the original Jumanji fans out there. See if you can spot the 25 references Brett has cleverly included in this picture and tell us if you can get them all!
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Dusted off and held up alongside its showy sequels, Jumanji’s charm is only accentuated in comparison. Notable at the time for its post-Jurassic Park CGI effects, they’re now a charming mix of practical and technical-wizardry that gives the film a weight that might be absent had it been made today. The lion in the attic is a lot more convincing than the photorealistic felines in a recent Disney remake.
Bringing the giant mosquitoes, crazed monkeys, and Saharan stampede to life is the titular game. The high-concept at the centre of Jumanji is just the kind of macguffin that appeals to every watching wide-eyed kid, and one that has endured after all this time because who doesn’t want to be able to escape into their own imagination at the role of a dice? What the film does so well is to restrict the events to the house and a small-town location. It’s relatable to anyone who has spent a long summer day fighting their imagination manifest, or running through the neighbourhood as they’re chased by a make-believe beast.
Jumanji isn’t all child’s play though, with the story tackling the same timeless issues which have permeated more heralded films, such as The Goonies or E.T., allowing the movie to operate on multiple levels. Parental abandonment or lost youth are the foundations upon which the manically fun action can hang. They’re themes that resonate for all ages, but that’s not to say that if you’re simply looking for a movie in which three monkeys ride a police motorcycle, then that can also be your takeaway.
Working in sync with the multi-generational appeal is of course the late great Robin Williams. His man-child routine, easily transposed from the similarly-themed Hook, really is the heart of Jumanji. He’s slightly dialed back, which some might see as a wasted opportunity, thinking maybe he has taken a back seat to the special-effects, when he himself was a living, breathing special effect. It’s a performance of real pathos, and while he is fondly remembered for being an actor able to fracture your funny bone, Robin Williams’s best work was often reserved for your tear-ducts, and what makes Jumanji special is that here he achieves both.
So what ultimately makes the beat of the Jumanji drum as strong as it was all those years ago? Well, like all of the best board games it has some wonderfully crafted playing pieces – notably a young Kirsten Dunst, exuding the kind of confidence that screamed stardom – a simple set of understandable rules, and the magical ability to make you want to keep playing it over-and-over again.
JUMANJI THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY – THE FILM IS AVAILABLE ON DIGITAL & DIGITAL 4K ULTRA HD