As a tie-in to the theatrical release of Jumani: Welcome to the Jungle, Sony has restored the 1995 original, Jumanji, starring the late Robin Williams, with a new 4K transfer and Dolby Atmos sound.
The Production: 4/5
It is 1969 and Alan Parrish (Adam Hann-Byrd) is bullied by the neighbor hood kids, stealing his bicycle and beating him up. His father, Sam Parrish (Jonathan Hyde), who owns and runs Parrish Shoes, doesn’t know how to help his son, advising him to basically suck it up and take it as a man, threatening to send him to boarding school. Feeling dejected, Alan wanders on to a construction site and uncovers a board game just under a newly dug foundation, Jumanji. He takes it home, and after a fight with his father, is about to run away from home until Sarah Whittle (Laura Bell Bundy) knocks on the door to return his bike. They begin playing the board game, which foretells strange events just before they happen, as bats chase Sarah out of the house and Alan gets sucked into the game until another player rolls a five or eight.
Fast forward to 1995. Parrish Shoes has gone under after Sam has spent the family fortune searching for Alan, whom the town believes was murdered by his father, and has placed the town in bad straights. Nora Shepherd (Bebe Neuwirth) has just purchased the Parrish Estate, which has been unoccupied for years, and moves her recently orphaned niece, Judy (Kirsten Dunst) and nephew Peter (Bradley Pierce) in with her. Judy and Peter find the Jumanji board game in the attic and begin playing it, as giant mosquitoes and a hungry, roaring lion quickly appear in the house. Peter rolls a five on his next turn, and a much older and hairy Alan (Robin Williams) arrives to trap the lion in Nora’s bedroom. As mayhem ensues and the escaped animals run rampant in the town, the three discover that the only way for all of this to end is to find the adult Sarah (Bonnie Hunt), who has been traumatized by the events in 1969, and finish the game.
Jumanji was directed by Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer, Captain America: The First Avenger), who got his start in the business working at visual effects house Industrial Light and Magic as a storyboard artist. His experience with staging and planning visual effects combined with his knowledge of pacing are both a blessing and a curse to the film. The movie does move along at a brisk pace and Johnston succeeds where many directors have failed in keeping Robin Williams from becoming too frenetic. Where Jumanji falters is in the visual effects. Granted, CGI creatures where fairly new back in 1995, and many of the animals looked pretty good in the day. However, Johnston wanted those animals to appear slightly stylized and not entirely realistic or natural. And while that worked on the stampeding herd and to some degree on the lion, it completely fails on the band of monkeys, who never looked right even back in 1995. The integration of animatronics and CGI are less seamless now than they did then, and the breakthrough really wouldn’t happen until Johnston’s very under-appreciated Jurassic Park III. Williams does keep the movie together, and the rest of the cast, including Kirsten Dunst, Bonnie Hunt, Bebe Neuwirth, David Alan Grier, and even Jonathan Hyde (in a delicious double role as both Big Game Hunter Van Pelt and father Sam Parrish) all stand their own and deliver solid performances.
3D Rating: NA
Sony turns in yet another winning 4K transfer of a back catalog title shot on film. The 2160p transfer was culled from the original 35mm negative and then enhanced with HDR10, providing more natural and even colors and more resolved contrast, all the while retaining the original film grain. Joe Six Pack may find the grain and muted color scheme distracting (and he has on some of the buyer reviews on Amazon), but this is pretty close to how I remember Jumanji looking when I saw it during its original theatrical run in 1995.
Sony continues to only provide Dolby Atmos on their UHD releases (and the included Blu-ray is a new release that is also sold separately but only has a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track), and the Atmos track included here is outstanding. The soundstage has been opened up immensely, with much more active surrounds and excellent use of the overhead channels with mosquitoes buzzing and water rushing overhead. Dialogue is also well-executed throughout all channels, providing a great sense of immersion. LFE is much stronger, too, particularly during the many stampede sequences. This is a reference-quality, demo-worthy track.
Special Features: 4/5
All of the Special Features can be found on the included 1080p Blu-ray, many of which have been ported over from previous home video releases.
Audio Commentary with the Special Effects Crew: Visual Effects Supervisor Ken Ralston leads the track, with assistance from Amalgamated Dynamics heads tom Woodruff, Jr. and Alec Gillis (who provided the animatronic effects) and others from the special effects team. The track is pieced together from various, individual recording sessions.
Sneak Peek of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (1080p; 3:13): New to this release. A trailer that combines interviews with cast members of the new film. This may have been shown in theatres as part of their pre-show.
Gag Reel (1080p; 5:19): New to this release. Bloopers galore, sourced from what appears to be a personal VHS copy then badly upscaled to 1080/24p with major dropped frames and interlacing issues.
Deleted Scenes (1080p; 1:47): New to this release. Two scenes are provided, playable individually or together as one piece; The Company with Soul and Merry Christmas. These were sourced from what appears to be a personal VHS copy then badly upscaled to 1080/24p with major dropped frames and interlacing issues.
Making Jumanji: The Realm of Imagination (480i; 20:03): An EPK piece on the making of the film that was likely shown on HBO.
Jumanji Motion Storybook as Read by Author Chris Van Allsburg (1080p; 8:59)
SFX Featurette: Lions Monkey and Pods… Oh, My! (480i; 14:33): A look at the CG and animatronic effects used in the film.
Bringing Down The House (480i; 3:09): Production Designer James Bissell discusses the creation and different versions of the Parrish Estate.
Jumanji: The Animated Series (480i): Two episodes from the UPN series are included, The Price (23:36) and Bargaining for Time (21:43).
Storyboard Comparisons (480i; 3:43): Bats, Rhino Stampede, and Earthquake.
Production Stills (1080p)
Conceptual Art (1080p)
The Extreme Book of Nature (480i; 5:48): Brief trivia bites on Bats, Crocodiles, Lions, Monkeys, Mosquitoes, Spiders and Stampede.
Ancient Diversions (480i; 14:21): How to perform some simple magic tricks.
International Trailer (1080p; 0:32)
Are You Game Trailer (1080p; 2:46)
It’s A Jungle In There Trailer (1080p; 1:45)
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy on UltraViolet or Movies Anywhere retail partners. I redeemed on Movies Anywhere, which gave me HDX on Vudu and Amazon (not currently available in UHD at this time on either service), and 4K UHD on Google Play Movies and iTunes. Oddly, the title is not available on Sony’s ULTRA service.
Although not necessarily a classic, Jumanji is a fun family film, and Sony has delivered yet another great presentation of a catalog title.