A Comparison of Jumanji: Old vs. New


It is a common occurance today that we see old movies getting revamped with a shiny, new cast, but the same old plot, like Ghostbusters, It, and The Mummy. Our skepticism towards the new film, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” was justified, yet we were very pleasantly surprised over how well the new movie turned out. But how does it compare to the old movie?



The original 1995 film begins in 1969 when a young Alan Parrish finds a board game, Jumanji, and he accidentally gets trapped in the game for 26 years after playing with his best friend Sarah Whittle. In 1995, siblings Judy and Peter Shepherd find and play the game, unleashing the jungle upon the real world and freeing Alan. In the end, the group of four manage to beat the game and reverse all of the madness the game caused. All is well.

The remake’s first victim is Alex Vreeke, who receives the game in 1996, a year after all the action in the first movie occurs. The game adapts into a video game cartridge to draw in more victims, including Vreeke. 21 years later, a diverse group of four teenagers undergo a similar fate and get sucked into the game, becoming the characters they selected. Together, along with Vreeke, they are able to beat Jumanji. Once they return home, once again, all is well.

So, the bottom line? Board game vs. video game. Just rolling the dice and hoping for the best vs. actually having to strategically beat levels of a game. The jungle comes to them vs. they go to the jungle. Being yourself vs. being a character with strengths and weaknesses. One life in reality vs. three video game lives.

The plot in the original is a lot stronger than the remake, and there is a lot more action. That said, the new “Jumanji” leaves a lot more time for humor, and the events are, all things considered, a lot more realistic.

While the remake continues to follow parts of the original plot, it’s refreshing to see that they took the film in a new direction.



The original film has a quartet of four people: A man who was trapped in a board game for 30 years, a woman who saw her best friend disappear in a board game and suffered from PTSD for years, and two kids who found the game. In that order, the cast includes Robin Williams, Bonnie Hunt, Kirsten Dunst, and Bradley Pierce. There are other characters too, and while they are vital to the plot of the original, they none of them are even mentioned in the new film. However, there is a hunter that makes an appearance at one point, and, you know, tries to kill everybody. This character, Van Pelt, is pretty important if you see the movie’s sequel.

The new movie had to do twice as much work, casting wise. Not only did they have to cast four teenagers, but they had to cast their video game counterparts. The nerdy Spencer Gilpin becomes Dr. Smolder Bravestone, a.k.a. Dwayne Johnson, a fearless explorer. Football player Fridge Johnson becomes the Kevin-Hart sized sidekick, backpack man, and zoologist played by, you guessed it, Kevin Hart. Then we have your popular girl, Bethany Walker, who gets turned into the middle-aged cartographer (i.e. map doctor), Dr. Shelley Oberon, who is brought to life by Jack Black. Finally, we have Martha Kaply, the social outcast that transforms into killer of men Ruby Roundhouse, played by Karen Gillan.

As far as character growth and development in the films, we see a clear character arc for each of the main characters in both films. In the original, however, the characters were a lot stronger due to the actors who played them, and their interactions felt more genuine. The new film definitely took a cheesier take on character interactions, but this played in its favor at times.



While there are a few “easter eggs” placed throughout the movie, one of the nice things about the reboot is that viewers don’t have to have seen the original film to enjoy or understand the new one. That said, there are definitely some aspects from the new movie that make a lot more sense if you’ve seen the old one. For example, about halfway through the movie, a character in the game introduces us to his tree top bungalow. Written in one of the tree trunks, however, is the name Alan Parrish, so we know that the tree house was originally his. Perhaps this was a tribute to the late Robin Williams. But unless you’ve seen the original, you don’t make the connection that he was the original protagonist who was trapped in the game.

The beginning of the film: In the reboot, we are introduced to the game when it is half-buried in the sand on a beach, whose location is unknown. However, those who have seen the first film know where this beach is, and why the board game is there. At the end of the original film, we see two of the main characters throw the game into a river, in order to get rid of it. Presumably, all is well. However, the last shot of the movie is of the very same game on a beach, the game’s theme song drumming in the background. For those of us who remember the original, this lead-in to the new film is very satisfying.

Game-play elements: While the way you win Jumanji is very different in both movies, as there are aspects of both games that stay consistent. For one: the drums that draw in the game’s victims. These drums act as the theme song to the game, growing louder and more intense as players try to resist. We hear these drums when danger is approaching, and when our characters are in trouble. So, you know that when you hear these drums, something big is coming. You also win the game the same way in both films. In the original, you have to win the game like a regular board game, but you must call out Jumanji to make everything go back to normal. In the new movie, you have to return the Jaguar’s Eye, but in order to return Jumanji to its original state, you again have to call out Jumanji.

The villain: In the new movie, the person who stole the Jaguar’s Eye is big game hunter Van Pelt. But he didn’t come out of nowhere. In the original movie on one of Alan Parrish’s rolls, he releases Van Pelt, who recognizes him from his years trapped in the board game. We never actually figure out the original Van Pelt’s motive for going after Alan, but he seems determined to take him down.


While some can make the argument that the movies are very similar, those who have seen both films know that the new edition to the franchise is actually very different, in regards to the plot, characters, and humor. Although the new edition definitely topped the original in the comedy category, it’s hard to say which had the better plot. But if you’re looking for two hours of jungle-themed adventure, at least one of these films will make your day.