The original JUMANJI film 1995 was a nice family film that exhibited good intentions, starred the awesome Robin Williams, did $100 million at the box office, and became a small niche in America’s collective pop culture memory. Fast forward to 22 years later and we have ourselves a reboot. Below were going to do a brief comparison on the two films, and weigh in on our overall thought(s).
“Jumanji” (1995) is the story of two pairs of kids. Alan Parrish and Sarah Whittle (Adam Hann-Byrd and Laura Bell Bundy) start playing a cursed board game in 1969 only to see Alan wind up sucked inside it. Jump forward 26 years and a couple of orphans, Judy and Peter Shepherd (Kirsten Dunst and Bradley Pierce), move into Alan’s old home with their aunt (Bebe Neuwirth). They find the cursed game and start playing it, eventually releasing the now grown up Alan (Robin Williams) from the savage jungle world within. They also wind up releasing a host of destructive animals and an obsessed hunter (Jonathan Hyde) who run rampant through the house and the surrounding town. The only way to fix everything is to finish the game and that means recruiting the reluctant adult Sarah (Bonnie Hunt) to join them.
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” (2017) is a legitimately smart and good-hearted movie. The movie in 1996, with the cursed board game being discovered and then re-manifesting itself into the form of a home video game for a next generation of victims. They even cleverly throw in the line, “who plays board games anymore?” Fast forward to a group of high school kids serving detention, which is when they discover the video game “JUMJANI’ and start to play, only to find themselves sucked inside and occupying the game avatars they chose. The young nerd (Alex Wolff) finds himself the superhuman Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson). A hulking football stud (Ser’Darius Blain) who relies on the nerd for his homework becomes Bravestone’s diminutive and much less powerful sidekick, “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart). A selfie-obsessed hot chick (Madison Iseman) transforms into the portly Professor Oberon (Jack Black). And an awkward girl-loner (Morgan Turner) becomes badass video game babe Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). The quartet has to band together to complete each level of the game in order to return to the real world.
Other than a brief appearance of the cursed board game and another callback to the original, “Welcome to the Jungle” has virtually nothing in common with “Jumanji,” other than is origin. The characters are different people who undergo different emotional journeys for completely different reasons. In the original film, the main characters simply had to survive the action sequences, and we really only got a glimpse into them as character during their down time. The people trapped in “Welcome to the Jungle” video game are much more active in driving the plot with their decisions, and their actions are much more inclusive of their overall growth and journey while playing the game. The second film (Welcome to The Jungle) has a more complex premise and repeatedly makes those complications meaningful to the story and how we feel about what the characters are doing.
In summary, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” (2017) is one of the best made and most entertaining sequel/reboots I have seen in a long time, but “Jumanji” (1995) remains endearing, has nostalgia, and Robin Williams did a phenomenal job, but the new reboot stole the show. The video game premise really hit home for the millennials and the next generation, and I think it will stand the test of time.
Though separated by two decades, we would say both of these films are deserving of your attention.