At The Movies With Javid #08

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If you’re the same age as me (late 20’s), there’s a pretty good chance your life was significantly affected by the comedy and acting of Robin Williams. For crying out loud, here in Australia we had to watch ‘Dead Poets Society’ as part of our High School curriculum (and we watched ‘What Dreams May Come’ in Religion – that’s right, I’m a by-product of the Catholic School system) – and it’s hard to complain about that.

His zest for life and laughter shines through in so many of his performances, he was an icon of family movies and comedy, but also had range. He will be missed.

What that in mind, I’ve been watching the classics to serve multiple purposes – remembering his legacy, seeing if the movies still stand up, and of course, for some more reviews.

Hook (1991)

I never really enjoyed the Peter Pan story – which is kind of strange. It’s about a kid who never wants to grow up, who wants to keep having fun and enjoying a no-worries life – and really, who could blame him? For some reason though, it just never resonated with me. Perhaps you don’t realise how good a message this is until you’re old and disillusioned. Who knows. I just always thought Disney’s Peter Pan was a bit of a dick.

Fortunately this isn’t that same tale, as Peter is now a joyless old man who’s an asshole to his kids and is solely focussed by his career and earning money. So he’s still a dick, I guess.

On a trip over to London to see Wendy (now his Grandmother-in-Law), wouldn’t you know it, his kids go missing WHILE LEFT PRACTICALLY UNSUPERVISED IN A MASSIVE HOUSE. Turns out they’ve been kidnapped by Captain Hook in an attempt to get Pan once and for all.

Wendy tells Pete who he is, he forgets, until along comes Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell, (who had to do so little throughout the film, apart from sit in front of a green screen and pull various facial expressions), practically knocks him out and drags him off to Neverland.

While Wendy laments that Peter has ‘become a pirate’, his initial dealings with the Pirates, including Hook, to get his kids back show that he certainly hasn’t. What follows is a journey of rediscovery brought out by hanging about with kids – and this is (I assume) the underlying message of the movie.

While the mum says that there’s only a short amount of time kids actually want their parents around, Williams character shows the most important part of this isn’t in fact what it does for your children but what it does for you – it teaches you to live again, to love again and share that love of life with your offspring. Unfortunately for Peter Pan he gets it hanging around a bunch of other kids instead of his own.

Williams does a solid job as Peter Pan, but the fact that he’s just a big kid undoubtedly made it relatively easy for him. To me, the performance that commands this film is in fact Dustin Hoffman as the title character. The elaborate, pompous costume is done justice by the elaborate, pompous character Hoffman puts inside it, and the back and forth bits with Smee, including a particularly dark part about suicide, are some of the funniest in the film.

It all ends how you’d expect, until you hear Robin Williams say “to live would be an awfully big adventure”, and then you get sad again. A timeless classic that, unlike the next 2 films, didn’t rely on Williams to make it so. 8.5/10

Jumanji (1995)

I fucking loved Jumanji the moment I watched it as a 10 year old. The idea of a game that could bring the dark adventure of jungle into your own fucking house tantalised me so much I wanted to head straight down to K-Mart after watching it and didn’t understand why mum said they wouldn’t have it. This has always been, in my mind, one of the best family movies in the history of the world – but did I still think so after watching it last night?

I never realised a few things about this movie. The first scene is actually quite scary, and the rest of it starts off ridiculously similar to Forrest Gump (which had only come out a year before) with a kid being picked on, bullies, bikes and a girl. Except this time the kid isn’t mentally retarded, he’s just the son of the richest man in the town. Walking through a construction site in the middle of the afternoon he hears drums and pulls a massive chest out of a hole in the ground, which NOBODY manages to see despite the impression that the site is active.

He gets it home, the hot girl who’s way too tall for him comes over, they play it and he gets sucked in to the board. There you go. You pretty much know what happens in the rest of the movie and if you don’t, and you somehow have managed to remain oblivious to the story for the last 19 YEARS I say kudos to you, go and hire it.

The CGI is really good in some parts (getting sucked into the board) and incredibly bad in others (the monkeys), the animatronics are great, it’s a non-stop adventure from the moment all four players sit back down determined to finish. What I realise this film could have more of, in hindsight, is insight into the world of Jumanji itself.

Robin Williams character spent 26 years there, and we find out so little other than what comes out of the game. Come to think of it, for someone who was sucked through a board game into what appears to be little more than a horrific, constantly life-threatening jungle with monsoons, killer animals and hunters, it’s amazing that he both survived that long and hadn’t gone batshit crazy. It’s only for a want of an explanation of this that I have to take away some points. 9.5/10

Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

While, in Hook, Williams played the character that was always too busy for his children, Mrs Doubtfire takes him the other way completely. A somewhat child-like father whose only crime is being ridiculously spontaneous and between jobs, the horrible person in this film is played by Sally Field – and what a bitch she is.

It’s probably because her character is such a bitch that we can look positively upon the antics of Williams’ character. Some might say his only crime is loving his children too much, but in fact the biggest crime he commits is going to such elaborate measures to disobey the orders of a court when all he had to do was wait three months. In some ways his character motivation isn’t unlike a psychopath in a horror film. Thankfully, the internet has provided supplementary evidence in this AMAZING cut of the trailer turned into a horror film.

The best part about this movie compared to the others is the fact that Williams is allowed to do his famous ‘riffing’ so much. Whether it’s trying on costumes, putting on different voices of incompetent housekeeping applicants on the phone (thank god there was no caller ID back then), or simply doing a multitude of voices for the court liason (his character is a voice actor), you get to see some of Williams at his spontaneous best.

The physical comedy is brilliantly done and there’s enough in there to keep children laughing, but there’s also enough themes of an adult nature to keep older people engrossed in another story that you never really got as a kid.

Despite its questionable ethics, it’s a heart warming and hilarious film that, like every one on this list, stands the test of time. Moreso than Mara Wilson’s eventually-fading cuteness, anyway 8/10

I tried my best to watch these films without the rose-coloured spectacles of a posthumous mentality, and I think I did that well. Robin Williams was a brilliant actor and comedian, and the world is truly a poorer place for losing him. If anything can be taken from the tragedy that was his death, it should be a remembrance of growing up, an appreciation of family and making the most of the opportunity to truly incorporate mental illness and depression into public discourse. We can only hope.

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