It’s a Jungle Out There (Jumanji, 1995)

Jumanji_1995_PosterA tale of standing up to your fears via games, Jumanji tells the adventurous tale of Alan Parrish, a bullied young man with a domineering father, who finds the magical game.  He starts a game with his friend Sarah, but before she can role the dice, he disappears into the game and the room fills with bats.  Sarah runs away and the film leaps ahead twenty six years.

Judy and Peter Shepherd move into the Parrish house with their aunt.  They discover the game and free Alan.  But the game is not over, as the house and soon the neighborhood start to fill with jungle creatures.  And to top it off, there is the hunter Van Pelt, who is chasing after Alan.

They track down the grown up Sarah and coerce her into helping finish the game, all while their world gets turned more and more upside down. Their only hope to set things back to normal is to finish the game.

Williams is fun as the grown Alan Parrish, and the film sets him up as a kid in need of a reality check.  David Alan Grier plays an employee of Alan’s father who is fired because he covers for a screwup of Alan’s at his father’s factory.  It is not that Alan lacks reasons to be a bit selfish and bitter.  But the film shows he needs to grow. In an interesting choice, the villain Van Pelt (an evil big game hunter within the Jumanji game) is played by Jonathan Hyde, who also plays Alan’s father.  He actually brings warmth to Alan’s stern father towards the end, allowing the viewer to see why Alan still loves him.  Part of that is played out when the adult Alan learns his father actually pretty much gave up on everything else in the effort to find his son.

Jumanji is dragged down a bit by it’s dated 1990’s digital effects, most distracting in the digital monkeys. However, this is still a pretty enjoyable and light film.



Wrapped in Adventure (The Mummy, 1999)

The_Mummy_1999_PosterIn the 1930’s an ancient book has been discovered.  with the help of her brother and drunken adventurer Rick O’Connell, librarian Evie Carnahan leads an expedition to locate a lost city and the tomb full of treasures and antiquities.  They are racing against mercenary thieves. Both sides have a person who has been to the lost city before(Rick for Evie and the mercenaries have the cowardly Beni).  Upon finding the city, both sides set to exploring the tomb they find at the center.  Each has a piece of the puzzle, Evie a key to the  Book of the Dead, the other group has the Book.

After discovering a corpse that seems to still be fresh, in spite of its age, Evie gets drunk and reads from the Book of the Dead.  This sets off a chain of events that could result in the end of the world. On a more personal level, Rick and Evie must find a way to stop Imhotep from using Evie to bring back his beloved Anck Su Namun.

While the Mummy has traditional been a character of horror canon, this film takes a very different approach.  Stephen Sommers opts for an Indiana Jones style adventure full of crazy action and special effects.  Lighter on the gruesome and elevating comedy, this is a fun film.

It’s heavily reliant on digital effects, and almost two decades later they hold up to varying degrees.  It definitely dates the film, and yet, in the end, does not change that it is a pretty solid action movie.

The cast turns in entertaining performances.  Rachel Weisz is charming as the beautiful, clumsy and ambitious Evie.  Brendan Fraser channels Indiana Jones with swagger and goofball confidence.Sommers regular Kevin J. O’Conner is funny as the duplicitous Benji who ends up helping Imhotep to save his skin.

The film’s approach to the Mummy mythology is nicely thought out, tying Imhotep’s return to the ten plagues that beset Egypt in the Old Testament.  The film even connects the oppression of the Jews under Egypt with Benji trying a variety of religious symbols to ward off Imhotep, only for Imhotep to pause when he sees a Star of David.

The Mummy is full of action and humor.  It still holds up in spite of the dated effects.

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