(parts of review taken from prior DVD review)
"Jumanji" has always been a favorite movie ever since it was released in 1995 and recieved an average reception from critics, but a solid showing with audiences at the box office. It's certainly not your average kids picture, with a dark and slightly sad edge to it, which is actually refreshing in comparison to the average family feature. In other words, it's exciting, but it's also not the overly cheerful sludge that most kids films turn out to be.
The movie stars Robin Williams as Alan Parrish, a young boy who's picked on by the other kids and feels as if he's ignored by his parents, who are planning to send him off to boarding school. The girl that Alan likes stops by one night and the two decide to play the board game that Alan had found earlier that day. When the game starts moving pieces on its own the kids are terrified, but soon, the game sucks Alan into its world. The girl is so afraid (wouldn't you be?) that she runs out of the house, leaving Alan stuck for the next 26 years of his life, waiting for someone to take the next turn.
Years later, two young children move into the house and find the board game. Playing it for the first time, they release a horrified Alan who realizes that he's lost much of his life stuck in another world. Wanting to end what began, the kids (and eventually the young girl, now played as an adult by the great Bonnie Hunt), sit down to finish the board game. As animals, angry hunters and more are released by the game, they create chaos before it's all over.
Williams as well as Hunt are both excellent and the film manages to be consistent with a dark tone that remains entertaining and suspenseful. The visual effects are not quite as good as some of the effects that are out there in films today, but for effects from a few years ago, they are quite good. Overall, "Jumanji" may not be appropriate for very young kids, but older kids should find this a thrilling, imaginative adventure.
VIDEO: "Jumanji" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen by Sony Pictures Home Video. This transfer appears to be the same one that has been used for the prior releases. While it's still very good (and looks ever-so-slightly better here, maybe due to the movie having most of the first disc to itself), it's too bad that a remastered presentation couldn't have been prepared for this edition.
Anyways, sharpness and detail appear fine here, as images are not razor sharp, but are more than adequate and remain consistent. Detail is generally good, but coming up just short of greatness. Colors are particularly good, looking natural with no instances of problems.
As for concerns, there are some minor artifacts spotted, as well as some minor shimmering and finally, a speck or two seen on the print. Overall, a nice looking transfer.
SOUND: "Jumanji" is still one rockin' Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, providing some serious room-shaking bass, especially during the stampedes in the film. James Horner's excellent score (which is also available as an isolated track on this DVD) sounds outstanding and strong, as well as quite enveloping. Surrounds are used effectively and often, adding to what is already quite an entertaining experience. Dialogue is clear and although it sounded slightly "edgy" to me at times, still was easily understood. The scene that ends the game has to be heard to be believed - definitely one of the more incredible sounding sequences I've heard in a while. A lot of fun, but I would have loved to have had a DTS edition of the soundtrack included here, as well.
EXTRAS: Commentary: The commentary here is by ace FX supervisor Ken Ralston, who is the president of Sony Pictures Imageworks (Sony's visual FX fascility) and a former supervisor at Industrial Light and Magic, as well as the director of the upcoming "Jumanji" sequel. This is a more successful commentary than the FX supervisor commentary that was included on "Godzilla", as Ralston goes into more depth on the process of the job of the FX supervisor on pictures like this.
Tom Woodruff and Alec Gillis from Almalgamated Dynamics share their thoughts on how they made the animatronic effects and makeup effects on this film. They share their thoughts on what it takes to build the kind of effects that you see in this kind of film (they have also worked on "Starship Troopers" and "Tremors") as well as what it was like to work with director Joe Johnston.
It sort of becomes a little hard to keep track of who's talking since all of the commments from the members of the group seem to have been edited together, but I was able to just sit back and listen to the information provided. The comments are quite technical, but if you have an interest in effects, whether they be computer generated or animatronic, this is definitely a commentary that I'd recommend. Personally, I found discussions such as the choice between showing some scenes as special effects or doing them with animatronic creatures quite interesting. There are also various other speakers who pop up during the commentary, such as the sequence supervisor for the scenes featuring the monkeys, who talks about the challenges of that sequence, such as the first time they had done "digital hair" on the characters for the fur on the monkeys.
You get an incredible idea of the process and its joys and challenges. Every detail of the process, from building these effects in models to talking about the major systems that have to be put to work to bring these scenes to life. The commentary is almost without pauses - comments have been edited to make a complete commentary. Although some of the subjects begin to talk about work that had to be done that isn't exactly what is on-screen, there is still an enormous wealth of information included in this discussion, and I found it to be one of the most informative I've listened to in a long time. Definitely provides an incredible look into the process of special FX.
Making Of "Jumanji" - "The Realm Of Imagination": A 20 minute documentary that takes a look behind the scenes of the production, with some very funny interview sequences with Robin Williams. It's not a documentary that's about providing information about the the technical features, but it's more a promotional item that talks about the story and has quite a few interviews. Some interesting bits and I liked listening to a lot of the interview segments, but it really doesn't provide a whole lot of in-depth info. There is talk about the special effects, but I found the commentary to be a better source of FX info. All in all, better than the average documentary feature.
"Lions and Tigers and Pods, Oh My": This is a 14 minute featurette that is devoted specifically to the FX of Jumanji and does provide some fasinating information through the interviews with many of those who were also involved with the commentary track. While the commentary is more of a complete discussion of the FX than the documentaries, it's still always nice to have documentaries like this where we actually see the special effects artists at work.
"Bringing Down The House": A short three minute documentary that looks at the production design of the house as the film goes from begining to middle to end. There are some very cool looks behind-the-scenes of the crew at work as well as at some of the illustrations of the concepts for the stages of the house.
Storyboards: Now this is a pretty neat feature: the viewer can watch a split-screen comparison between the storyboards and the final scene for three sequences in the movie - "Bats", "Rhino Stampede" and "Earthquake".
Conceptual Art/Production Stills: Packed photo galleries - the Conceptual Art area includes creature art, production design and an area which I found quite interesting, "alternative title treatments". The "Production Stills" area includes three separate areas: "Creating the Creatures", "Set Photography" and "Production Design Photos".
"Secrets and Riddles": A new interactive game, found on the first disc.
"Extreme Book of Nature: Also new to the DVD is this section, which goes into detail about some of the animals seen in the movie.
Ancient Diversions: An interactive section showing old magic tricks. The DVD notes that this section that kids should be supervised by an adult when viewing this section.
Also: Also new on this edition are: previews for "Zathura", "Zathura: The Videogame", "Open Season", "Christmas with the Kranks" and "Stuart Little 3". The set also offers a movie ticket coupon worth $7.50 for "Zathura", which is valid until 12/23/05 at participating theaters.
Final Thoughts: "Jumanji" still remains a wonderfully entertaining and suspenseful adventure, with great performances and FX that still stand up fairly well ten years later. This "Deluxe Edition" DVD doesn't have enough to recommend an upgrade for those who own the prior editions, but those who don't (and especially those considering going to "Zathura") should consider picking this one up.