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Jumanji
Starring Robin Williams and Bonnie Hunt,
Kirsten Dunst and Bradley Pierce
Special visual effects and animation by Industrial Light & Magic
Animatronic effects and special make-up from Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc.
Special mechanical effects supervised by Stan Parks and Rory Cutler
Directed by Joe Johnston

I've listed the effects houses for a specific purpose. With ILM topping the bill, these are *not* houses that don't know what they're doing. They more than know how to do an effect that will make you go "WOW!" Remember that.

I start with the effects because all the messages I've been reading across the boards and the Internet focus on how bad the special effects look (in the trailer and the television commercial).

Jumanji is a fantasy about a board with incredible power. Once you begin playing, you must finish the game. As you play, elements of nature -- more specifically of the jungle called "Jumanji" -- will manifest themselves in your reality, wreaking havoc and untold destruction.

Don't try to cheat. The game will make a monkey out of you.

The first time we see the game, in the year 1869, it is being buried in the forest. There is a sound of pounding drums as the players ride away.

One hundred years later the game is uncovered by young Alan Parrish, at a construction site. Alan's the type of boy that was always being beat up by the local bullies. He'd never take a stand, as his father wanted him to. When he did, well, he got beat up. His reward for acting like a man is to be sent away to a private boy's school. So he decides to run away. But his friend Sarah shows up first, and the drums of Jumanji compel them to play the game. Bats come flying out of the fireplace, and Alan gets sucked into the game. Vanishing forever (maybe) because Sarah doesn't finish playing.

Twenty six years later, in the attic of the abandoned Parrish house, the game is found by two children. It is played. Now an adult, Alan Parrish (Robin Williams) is released from his "prison," a hairy caveman looking guy. He wants nothing more than to find his parents. But the game he started must be completed. Sarah must be found, and she has spent the years trying to convince herself that what she saw never happened.

Real heavy duty stuff, right? But Jumanji is supposed to be a fantasy, right? Can the two exist simultaneously? Of course they can. But you have to believe everything you see completely or the fantasy is broken.

The effects don't look right.

I've heard that Robin Williams said on one of the morning talk shows that it was decided that the effects should look like those that would have come out of a board game. Well they do. They look fake. It was a bad decision.

Which is unfortunate, because the script is great. You will laugh. You will feel your emotions swell up. Maybe a tear will come to your eyes. But then a bad effect will manifest itself and the fantasy will be blown to pieces.

Now the good part. The performances, by Williams and Bonnie Hunt (as the grown up Sarah), and Kirsten Dunst and Bradley Pierce as the children are so strong that it doesn't take long for that "fantastic" feeling to reassert itself, once a bad effect blows you out.

There's a bit of a It's A Wonderful Life (the classic Christmas time movie) flip flop at the end, and a (uh-oh) setup for a sequel bit as well. Harmless.

This I will say for the audience present when I saw Jumanji. We all walked out smiling. Bad effects or no. With one exception. WARNING: as bad as the effects sometimes are, this is not a movie I'd advise bringing little kids to. There were a number of (maybe 5 yrs. or less) children who had no problem with the effects and were scared out of their wits.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Jumanji, he would have paid . . .

$5.00

That's for me, who is single. If you've got a family to take care of, it's actually a pretty good rating if you consider what's out there this holiday season. If you're Toy Story'd out, and you've already done Father of the Bride 2, Jumanji should be fine. If the kids aren't too small.

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