By RACHEL REARDON, Student Writer
The world of the ’90s has become a time capsule of nostalgia for anyone with a good taste in music, an unhealthy obsession with crimped hair or puka shell necklaces and an unyielding hatred for cartoon remakes. We’re looking at you, “Powerpuff Girls.”
It also gave way to the birth of several glorious movies, many of which are very close to my heart. One such masterpiece, “Jumanji” (1995) may not be glorious in the traditional sense. Let’s be honest, the film absolutely reeks of the 90’s; the acting can be awfully cheesy and the special effects left a lot to be desired after “Jurassic Park” (1993). Despite its flaws, the film is remarkably endearing, and remains a nostalgic classic for several reasons:
- It’s Surprisingly Terrifying
Ok, if I’m perfectly honest, I had this bad habit of running the other way whenever I saw this game on toy store shelves. The film, regardless of how hilarious the script is (want some bourbon with that ice cream, kids?), ingrained within us this awful fear of being sucked into board games or otherwise subjected to similar tortures – like Aunt Nora’s parenting, for example.
These fears may have been irrational, but even the sound of the washing machine was enough to send shivers up our spines after hearing that foreboding rhythm for the first time. But hey, if these fears had even the slightest chance of becoming reality, they could have made Clue ten times more interesting.
- It’s Also Surprisingly Heart-Wrenching
“I don’t think anybody loved his boy more than Sam did.”
It’s been a long time since I’ve cried while watching this movie, probably because it sucked my soul out the first time I watched it. The movie is tragic because it plays to our sense of nostalgia, that longing for things to return to how they were before. Add a car crash in Canada and the lonely demise of a man who never made amends with his son and you have a tragedy worthy of Shakespeare.
Granted, tragedy can be tricky because once you know that everything resolves itself you begin to form an emotional barrier (so that said film can no longer tear your heart out). The reason this film continues to make me sad twenty-one years after its debut is because I always confuse my nostalgic feelings for the film itself with the nostalgic feelings of the story being told. I can’t cry because I already know the ending, but I can mourn with Alan when he’s disoriented by the ravages of time because, in certain ways, we all are.
- The Sets are Amazing
Ignoring the terrible CGI monkeys, Jumanji is beyond detailed and fun to watch. The Parrish house is beautiful and I may or may not have felt terrible agony while watching its destruction near the end of the movie. I don’t blame young Alan for his reservations on moving to Cliffside, because if I had lived in that house when I was younger I might have never left for college myself.
Another fabulous location in the film is the Parrish Shoe Factory, seen both in the midst of its heyday and after its dissolution twenty-six years after Alan’s disappearance. Seeing the transformation is both eerie and saddening. But before you let yourself become too saddened, just remember that the citizens of Keene, New Hampshire recreated the sign for Parrish Shoes after filming had wrapped.
- Robin Williams
Does this even need an explanation? If you grew up in the 90’s like I did, chances are Robin Williams was a huge part of your childhood. Even his bad movies were endearing. The man knew how to make us laugh and cry simultaneously, and this performance is no exception.
- The Supporting Cast
Aside from Robin Williams, there are other large names involved like Kirsten Dunst, Bonnie Hunt, and Bradley Pierce who many remember as a little teacup named Chip from Beauty and the Beast (1991). Hunt is charming as always and her banter with Williams is both funny and affectionate. Finding good child actors is usually a difficult feat for any casting director, but Dunst and Pierce give a well-balanced performance that manages to make use of the cheesiest dialogue. Their dynamic as brother and sister is believable, and even touching at times, as is their developing relationship with stars Williams and Hunt. David Grier’s performance is also notably hilarious as the unfortunate police officer, Carl Bentley.
- It Has a Good Message
Surprisingly the deepest conflict of the film is not the cursed board game that tears apart the town, but rather the brief rift that develops between Alan Parrish and his father, Sam. Throughout the film Alan suffers an internal battle with the expectations his father held for him, expectations that drove him to lash out at both his parents before being sucked into Jumanji. He struggles between missing his father terribly and resenting him, though he also finds he is slowly becoming him in the process. The film also makes the clever decision of casting Sam Parrish’s actor, Jonathan Hyde, as the determined hunter Van Pelt who personifies all of Sam’s expectations for Alan in a very deadly way.
Jumanji ends with Alan finally standing up to Van Pelt and his father’s expectations, and ultimately winning the game only seconds before Van Pelt kills him. After winning the game time apparently resets itself to five minutes after Alan’s fight with his father, allowing them the chance to make amends. The story appears to suggest that neither character was entirely correct in their philosophy, both Alan and Sam let their fears negatively influence their actions, just in different ways. In the end, however, both father and son are able to come to terms with their repressed anger and begin to form a healthier relationship.
- There is a Remake in the Works
If you remember the intro of this list, you probably also remember how I feel about remakes. That being said, in keeping with the themes of the movie I feel it’s only appropriate to give Jumanji a second chance to tell its story. Dwayne Johnson has apparently put himself in charge of the film, and it seems Jack Black has also recently joined the mix. We can only hope this new adaptation, set to release in July of 2017, is every bit as whimsical, tragic, and terrifying as its predecessor with all the charm we have missed since Robin Williams’s passing.
After all, “There is a lesson you will learn: sometimes you must go back a turn.”