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Jumanji – 20th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Review)

JumanjiJUMANJI: 20th ANNIVERSARY EDITION stars Academy Award® winner Robin Williams (Best Supporting Actor, Good Will Hunting, 1997), Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man trilogy) and Bradley Pierce (The Borrowers).  When two kids find and play a magical board game, they release a man trapped for decades in it and a host of dangers that can only be stopped by finishing the game. The all-new bonus features include animated storybook excerpts from the book, narrated by author Chris Van Allsburg, two episodes of the 1996 “Jumanji: The Animated Series” TV show and the original theatrical trailer.  The film is direct by Joe Johnston (Captain America: The First Avenger, The Rocketeer).

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Film 

When young Alan Parrish discovers a mysterious board game, he doesn’t realize its unimaginable powers, until he is magically transported before the startled eyes of his friend, Sarah, into the untamed jungles of Jumanji! There he remains for 26 years until he is freed from the game’s spell by two unsuspecting children. Now a grown man, Alan reunites with Sarah and together with Judy and Peter tries to outwit the game’s powerful forces in this imaginative adventure that combines breathtaking special effects with an enchanting mixture of comedy, magic and thrills.

The first and last time I saw Jumanji was back opening weekend in the theater in 1995.  I came I saw, I watched and that’s really it.  I remembered the general concept and key scenes from the film, but nothing really stuck with me at all and I never have had any desire to return to it since.  I don’t think I didn’t like the movie at the time, probably more just so-so.  I went and saw it because it was the new Robin Williams movie, and back in the 90s, whenever that man had something come out, you went and saw it.

Returning to the film now for this review, I never realized what dark and dour film this was.  My memory was more of a fun, spectacle kind of film.  This time around it was playing like a horror film that felt a bit too much in many parts.  It felt like something more sinister that was parading around as a kids adventure film.  There was no sense of wonder here, more of a sense of fear and my only wonder was how the heck everything was going to tidy up in the end.  It was really not how I guess time had me remember.  I mean, look at the poster, does that say “grimdark” at all to you?

There are a lot of things in the movie that just go much too far for what they are selling or spinning.  The score for Jumanji is much to over the top.  A lot of this movie’s music reminded me of James Horner’s climactic pieces for Aliens, even during just a simple little action-oriented beat.  People are looting in this, rioting, and then you have the safari dude who is actually trying to shoot to kill something. Oh and those damn monkeys are really stirring up some hell.  If this film didn’t figure to have a supernatural ending to tidy things up, what a mess for this poor little town that seemed to be down in the dumps anyway.

This is supposed to be an effects spectacular, so despite any sort of story or character issues, that is supposed to conquer all.  And, I know this is 1995, but I’m pretty sure there were better effects in big budget films at this time.  Not all of it was bad.  When you had the stampede, that actually held up, but the stuff we get to sit and spend time with was not doing well.  The monkeys in particular looked a far cry from believable.

Jumanji is not the film I remembered it being.  While I think its just fine for kids (I watched it with mine), I would understand if some parent found a bit of the material or violence to be a little questionable.  My biggest problem with the film is how much fun it didn’t want to be.  And that’s surprised with Joe Johnston at the helm.  Even during the film’s happiest times, it seemed a bit dour and dark.  There are many fans of this movie from their childhood, and more power to them, I just haven’t been and am not feeling like seeing it again changed any of that.  My son seemed to enjoy it.  We’ll see if this becomes a favorite for him.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail: From what I can gather, this is an identical transfer to the previous release of the film on Blu-ray.  The image looks the best it has, but does appear a bit murky.  Its not the sharpest and detail remains a little too moderate.  This jump to high definition I think also cost the look of the special effects.

Depth:  The image is a bit flatter, with some instances of 3 dimensional stuff eeking out.  Movements are cinematic with minimal blur.

Black Levels:  Blacks slight up from being deep.  Some minor crushing is present and details on clothes, surfaces and the like can be hidden or hard to discern at times.

Color Reproduction:  Colors go for a more dingier look with not a whole lot of pop to them.  Green stand out most of all and is the impressive primary of the bunch.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and consistent.  At times faces appear to be a bit too smooth.  Detail is decent and only really sticks out on close up shots.

Noise/Artifacts: Grain, and there are some slight haloing and compression issues throughout.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Japnaese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Thai

Dynamics:  This, as well as the video, is the same track as previously released.  But, in this regard, that’s good news.  This is a loud, boisterous track that fills the room with some terrific uncompressed action.  The score of the film is right front and center, but never at the mercy of the effects or vocal tracks.  With animals on the loose and running wild, this track is a real treat for all the rampage.

Low Frequency Extension:  Stampedes, car crashes, shotgun fire, musket rifle fire, glass shattering and scoring hits all impress on the LFE with this mix.

Surround Sound Presentation: Animals and rioting tends to scatter around the room and includes the rear speakers.  Front speakers provide a nice placement of volume as well as tracking the action and characters on screen with great accuracy.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is loud, clear and well rounded.

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Extras 

Jumanji – Anniversary Edition comes with an UltraViolet Digital Copy of the film.

Audio Commentary 

  • With Special Effects Crew

Documentary & Featurettes (SD, 37:44)

  • Making Jumanji: The Realm of Imagination
  • Lions and Monkeys and Pods…Oh My!
  • Production Design: Bringing Down the House

Storyboard Comparison (SD, 3:41) – “Bats” , “Rhino Stampede”, “Earthquake”

Jumanji Motion Storybook as Read by Author Chris Van Allsburg (HD, 8:59) – Original artwork featured also from Chris Van Allsburg

Jumanji: The Animated Series (HD, 45:20) – Two episodes; “The Price” & “Bargaining for Time”

Jumanji Jungle Adventure: Virtual Board Game – A video version of the board game, allowing 2-4 players.

The Cast of Goosebumps Reflects on Jumanji (HD, 5:19) – The two male leads from the upcoming Goosebumps and share a sneak peek at the film.

Goosebumps Sneak Peek (HD, 3:01) – Basically the trailer for Goosebumps.

Original Teasers and Trailers (HD, 5:03) 

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Summary 

Its been 20 years since I’ve seen Jumanji and it was a lot different film than I kinda sorta remember I suppose.  Its a film that takes a fun idea and concept and makes it a bit too gloomy and less fun.  This release is pretty much the same as the disc before, just now with a digital copy and some Goosebumps featurettes added.  If you don’t own the film yet, then this is the version to pick up, but if you already got it, you may want to just hold on to that.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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