When looking at Robin Williams’ long, varied, and incredible filmography, a movie like Jumanji doesn’t exactly stand out as one of the “best.” But, there’s no ignoring the immense impact that the film had on me as a child, and the immense joy that I still feel when I watch it as an adult.
I was six years old when Jumanji came out in 1995, and I can still remember the magic I felt in that first viewing. As a child, the things that stood out most to me were, of course, the crazy things that come out of the board game (and the cool rhymes that appear before them), it’s wacky humor, rioting monkeys, and obviously, Robin Williams.
I must have watched Jumanji over a hundred times as a youngster, and as I grew older I began to realize that I wasn’t returning to it for Van Pelt or Officer Carl Bentley’s constant run-ins with the game’s manifestations. I was returning to the film for one thing and one thing only: Williams. His magnetic charm, humorous touches and outbursts, and layered performance kept drawing me back to Jumanji, with the same hypnotic curiosity as the titular game’s subconscious African drum sound creates.
As an adult, I see now how incredible Williams is as Alan Parrish, a man who gets sucked into a board game as a child, who grows up alone and terrified in a dangerous jungle, and who gets brought back into the real world twenty six years later only to find that he has to finish the game that stole his life from him.
Williams handles the role remarkably well, bringing just the right amounts of humanity and ridiculousness that really make the film resonate. He never feels too big for it either, and is able to turn his loud, hilarious performance around on its head almost instantly. He goes from cracking jokes to talking about the horrors of the jungle within seconds, completely conveying the pain and grief that such an experience would bestow. He makes the danger feel very real, but always elevates the material back to the comedic, wacky, and adventurous tone that makes the film so much fun to watch in the first place.
I know that it’s no One Hour Photo, Good Will Hunting or Dead Poets Society. Hell, it’s hardly even a Mrs. Doubtfire. But Jumanji is a film that ‘s meant the world to me for two decades. And I have Robin Williams to thank for that.
– James Garcia