20 years ago, a smallish and naive 10 year old boy waited anxiously in line at the theater on what was probably a snowy December evening. Eagerly anticipating rushing in to grab the perfect seat for the movie, this young boy had popcorn in hand and a had it all planned out in his mind. He had been to this theater countless times and he knew exactly what seat he wanted, and he was determined to get it.
That boy was me; the movie Jumanji. That night, I felt like I truly lived. (Not really... but as a 10 year old boy it was probably what I thought)
Jumanji was a film that at the time received fairly mild reviews, averaging out to close to 7 out of 10 stars. None of that mattered to 10 year old me. I loved the movie and I still do actually. So it was with childlike excitement that I squealed when I heard the news that Sony Pictures announced that the reboot/adaptation (rumored since 2012) officially has a December 2016 release date.
Before I continue, I feel that I must say this:
I love Robin Williams!
He truly is a once-in-a-lifetime type of person, actor, comedian and he deserves so much respect for creating the memorable characters that he has over the years. Yet, regardless of my feelings about his acting and his characters, I do believe that it's okay to recreate his characters. Will they be the same? No, and that's kind of the point. No one will ever be the comedian that Robin Williams was but there are still stories to be revisited and re-envisioned with new actors and actresses.
We really don't know much about the reboot, outside of the fact that it's happening and that it is being penned by Zack Helm, writer of Stranger than Fiction and Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. Those two films in particular, give me hope for the script of the new Jumanji film. Like it's predecessor, as well as the original Van Allsburg's story, Jumanji is a timeless story which ultimately makes a remake more valid than most. Board games will always be around and kids will always play games and be able to connect with the possibility that maybe someday their own games will bring them into a fantastical world full of adventure and danger (and maybe a monkey in the kitchen too).
How can they reboot the movie and still honor Robin Williams' character?
That question is actually very simple to answer. The original story never had Alan Parrish (Robin Williams) Sarah Whittle (Bonnie Hunt), Officer Bentley (David Alan Grier) or any of the other adult characters. Create a new movie, a retelling sort of film that doesn't create the back story for Alan Parrish. This way we don't need to recreate the character that Robin Williams so deftly portrayed. Could they recreate his character; yes, but is it necessary for the story; no. The original story is truly just about Peter & Judy as they attempt to finish the game that they started. The best way to honor the original as the classic that it is, would be to recreate it in a way that it doesn't tamper with the memory of watching Robin Williams in all of his glory.
Where could they take a rebooted movie?
Well, like I stated just above, the new movie could focus on the two characters of Peter and Judy as they play through the game, bringing back the stampede, the monsoon, the quicksand, the monkeys, the lion and the explorer (Van Pelt). Rather than having Judy and Peter both be fairly young in the film (both actors were 13 at the time even though Peter was supposed to be a few years younger) I'd have the film updated a little, possibly make them both a little older and altering who is the older sibling or truly making it known that they are basically the same age. I'd probably go with something along these lines for casting the two main characters.
For Judy there are two young actresses that I would love to see in this role, so it was difficult for me to choose between them.
Kiernan Shipka (Age 15)
Kiernan is an actress that you may not know unless you're a fan of AMC's Mad Men. Her acting career was supported by her family as they relocated to Los Angeles when Kiernan was only six. Kiernan definitely has the ability to take a lead role and maintain a strong presence on screen, as she has showcased over the last 8 years with her performance as Sally Draper on Mad Men.
Willow Shields (Age 15)
Willow is probably one of actresses that you recognize by her face rather than her name, but regardless of how you know her, she can definitely carry her own weight when it comes to being a major part of a cast as you can see in her performance as Primrose Everdeen in The Hunger Games films.
For Peter, there is really only one actor that came to mind that I would love to see in the role.
CJ Adams (Age 15)
CJ has starred with some rather large names in Hollywood (Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Ken Watanabe) and yet he still flies under the radar more often than not. He has three feature films under his belt before he turned 15 which gives me great hope that he could do well with a feature role like Peter.