“A game for those who seek to find a way to leave their world behind.”
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The Tabletop Series continues with our second entry: Jumanji. The original, not the one featuring The Rock that is coming out soon. Of the three board-game-inspired movies we are watching, Jumanji is the only one we’ve had the pleasure(?) of a previous viewing experience. That being said, Jumanji came out when we were all kids, and none of us have ventured back to rewatch it since, so we weren’t sure if it was going to be good or not. Fortunately, we knew enough about the movie to come up with a solid idea for the meal, though.
For this meal, we wanted to bring a bit of the jungle into our lives (but on our terms, not like what happens in the movie). We acquired a bunch of banana leaves and made dishes we could cook within a banana leaf. All of these foods are, in a sense, trapped in the jungle, just like Robin Williams’s character.
We started off with a grilled salad using fall vegetables, like turnip and broccolini. We tossed these vegetables with some Chinese chili paste, sesame oil, and good ol’ salt-n-pepper and wrapped the salad in a few banana leaves. We threw this nice little banana packet onto the grill and let it impart some of its flavors onto the salad inside. This salad was surprisingly spicy and actually balanced the flavors with our entree.
We acquired a huge, 6-pound rockfish (you can call him Rocky) and cooked it whole. First, we stuffed Rocky with Thai basil as we tried to avoid looking into its humongous glassy eye. We sprinkled him with salt and pepper, brushed him with sesame oil, and Rocky was ready for the grill. We lay a few banana leaves down on the grill and just plopped the fish on top.
Transferring Rocky to the grill was tough, though, and we ended up popping one of those giant eyes in the process. We lost the other once we flipped it to cook the other side, and our experience dealing with the rockfish actually improved once it was no longer staring at us. It also made eating the tender fish less disturbing. The meat itself was moist and filling, and the bits of fish that were closest to the Thai Basil had a truly extraordinary flavor that was exactly what we were looking for.
To close out the meal, we made sticky rice cakes with banana. They were simple treats – just sweet rice (glutinous rice cooked with sugar, and coconut cream) and half a banana steamed in a banana leaf – but incredibly tasty treats. The rice on its own was delicious, but the freshness of the banana balanced out the sweetness and richness of the rice. If you have ever had sticky rice with fresh mango, it is a similar experience to this dessert.
We really outdid ourselves with the drink this time, which was a banana and cardamom cocktail. We even made our own cardamom simple syrup, using hand-crushed cardamom pods and honey. We muddled cardamom pods, cooked it with honey, and after that cooled, we threw it together with some apple juice, lime juice, aged white rum, and Velvet Falernum, a new liqueur for us made from sugar cane, lime, almond, and cloves. The result was a sweet, fruity, tropical cocktail with all kinds of spices to delight your nose and your taste buds. We wished we had a glass or two more of this because it was so nice, and you best believe that we will be looking for Velvet Falernum cocktails in the future.
🎲 Drink when someone rolls the dice.
📦 Drink whenever the game is opened or closed.
🦏 Drink when a new element from the game makes its way into the real world.
It’s fair to say that Jumanji has not held up well. The most obvious example of this was the CGI. Unlike Jurrasic Park, a film that came out two years before this one, Jumanji relies all too much on CGI and doesn’t use enough practical effects. Their biggest mistake was making CGI monkeys, which look close enough to humans to suffer from the uncanny valley effect. The camera loves to linger on these monstrosities, which really gives you time to see how freaky they look, which perhaps leads to them being memorable characters.
The other part that really stood out to us was how bad the child actors were. Modern audiences have been spoiled by great performances by children in movies like The Florida Project and shows like Stranger Things, and we forget that there was a time when great child actors were either hard to come by or directors were unsure how to properly direct them. The two in Jumanji are great examples of the type of child actors that seem so prevalent in the 90’s, and can really take you out of the experience of watching a movie.
That is where Jumanji really fails: keeping you invested. Bad performances, writing that doesn’t take advantage of the talents of the team, and bad special effects are jolting moments that ruin your investment in the story it wants to tell. We found it very difficult to suspend our disbelief over the course of our viewing. What is really sad, though, is that the sequel could fix all of these issues and still be bad. Maybe Jumanji really is cursed. Fortunately, we will probably have some thoughts for you on Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle because our intrepid sequel-loving member, Leanna, has valiantly decided to go see this film while André and Ben see a movie they actually want to see.
André: Seeking a way to find a way to leave this movie behind. Jumanji was not good. As a fan of Robin Williams, I had high hopes for it but was disappointed to see that Jumanji was one of his weaker performances. The other actors were even worse, and the CGI was atrocious. Worst of all, the plot was threadbare and really frustrating. I don’t think Jumanji is a good movie at all and I am very confused as to why anyone thought a sequel was a good idea.
Leanna: I can’t believe I committed to seeing the sequel. After watching this movie, I am seriously confused about why anyone thought this movie deserved or needed a sequel. I will say, despite how bad this movie was, the gags that got me when I was younger still got me during this watch. There was something really strange and hauntingly funny about the monkeys and all the chaos they caused. Carl the police officer was still really funny when he yelled, “FINE! TAKE IT!” at the vines as they dragged his car into the forest. It also made me want to watch a good Robin Williams movie because he’s much better and funnier than this movie made him look.
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