Bradley Pierce shares his thoughts on how the new movie honors Robin Williams and reflects on working with him on the original film.
"Jumanji" was a massive hit at the box office when Robin Williams, Kirsten Dunst, Bonnie Hunt and Bradley Pierce first unleashed havoc from the titular board game back in 1995. Now, 22 years later, a sequel has arrived and one of the original film's stars is sounding off with TooFab.
The followup, "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle," trades the board game for a similarly-themed video game which sucks another batch of youngsters into all new dangers.
After attending the movie's premiere, Bradley Pierce (young Peter Shepherd in the first installment) told TooFab the followup largely succeeds, but could use a little more "heart." He also added that he was not asked to make a cameo in the film, but can't wait to see it again with his own children.
Keep reading to see what else the now-35-year-old actor said about the sequel's pros and cons, what it got wrong about Williams' character and his favorite memory from working with the late legend.
"Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" is in theaters now.
First thing's first: What were your initial thoughts of the new movie?
I really enjoyed myself at the premiere, had a good time and I thought that movie was really entertaining. It had some really wonderful moments and comedy and action that really worked. I enjoyed the performances and it was overall a really fun experience.
I do think it's missing a little bit of the heart that the original had. I think it's missing a little bit of that morality story that the original had. But it was a fun, family adventure movie. I think my boys will really enjoy it. They're 9 and 12 and I think they'll have a good time when I take them to see it.
What did you think of the approach they took, bringing it into a video game world instead?
I liked that they, more or less, stayed away from the original because it made sure it didn't feel like a remake, but a sequel and continuation. I like they way they told the story of how it became a video game, I felt that was really cool as well.
I think they actually could have played more with the video game element of it. They did a really good job of having the [non-player characters] stuck on the same verbal loop that existed in video games in the late '90s and early 2000s and in some still now. Aside from a couple things, they really didn't play too much with pausing and I feel like when Karen Gillan was complaining about her outfit, it would have been really entertaining if she went into a shop in a bazaar and was swapping outfits like you can change your avatar. They could have done more with the video game references and found some comedy in that.
There is a little nod to Robin's character, what was your reaction to that?
I liked the fact that they did give a nod to Alan, that they talked a little bit about him. But I was actually a little bit, frustrated isn't the right word, but I think that they could have given his character a little more credit. The way they tie it in is in a bit of a Swiss Family Robinson treehouse that one of the characters has chosen to inhabit. I feel like Alan might have done a little bit more with it or been a little bit more stealth about it. I don't feel like the Swiss Family Robinson style treehouse would have been an Alan way to do it. But I do like the nod that they gave him.
One thing I noticed that I think was really subtle but I really liked, whenever they look at the map, all of the paths that lead to their final mission are shaped the same as they were on the original Jumanji board game.
Did anyone every reach out about doing some kind of cameo?
I think they were trying to keep it very isolated. No one ever reached out to me for any kind of cameo or appearance work. There's definitely ways they could have made it work. Again, in the bazaar scene, you fill it with avatars. I feel like Jumanji would have grabbed the avatars from people who played the game before, so it would have been interesting to have Kirsten and I at the bazaar running a shop or something, it would have been a lot of fun.
But I think that the creators were trying to create something that was distinctly separate with some nods to the original. You only see the original board game for the first 3-5 minutes, before the initial title sequence. I think that was them saying without saying that they were going to make this completely different, transformed for a new generation and I think they did a pretty good job at that.
You mentioned you have kids of your own, what do they think of the original?
I have three children. I have a 12-year-old boy, a 9-year-old boy and a 3-year-old little girl. Both of my older kids have seen the original Jumanji. The youngest probably still a little too young for that, it can be a scary bit of film. they both enjoyed it. Both my boys are actors, but my older son, after he finished watching it, he asked me if he could be on TV too and I said we would give it a try. That's what got him started with his acting career. I don't know if they necessarily grasped the messages of it, but that's ok. When you're a kid, you don't need the heavy messages or morality of relying on your friends and relying on yourself, it's just about having a good time.
Do you have a particular memory that stands out from working on the film back in the day?
In general, one of the most memorable scenes to film was the monsoon sequence. We spent about 2 weeks in a set that was built in a wave tank at the University of British Columbia and we swam and did cannonballs from the second floor and that was so much fun, there were a lot of good memories there. It was also exhausting because we were in the water from 6-8 hours a day and it takes a toll.
Also, meeting and getting to work with some of the cast and crew on that. The obvious, Robin Williams, one of the kindest and most generous people I've ever had the opportunity to get to know. And getting to know him off set as well, I spent some days with he and his son when his son would come visit. Just wonderful, wonderful man.
You also did the voice of Chip in Disney's "Beauty & the Beast," what did you think of the live action remake?
That was one that I saw coming and was really excited about. When I first heard about the "Jumanji" remake I was definitely a detractor. I thought it was going to be a straight remake, so I was very against it. When I learned it was more of a sequel, I was more of a proponent.
But when I first heard about [Beauty and the Beast] I thought it had so much potential to be a great project. Emma Watson cast as Belle, I was very excited about it, thought she would do great with the character and she did. I do think that the cast was hired primarily as actors and I feel like they should, or at least could have, brought people to come from a more vocal background into that film and still had it go really well. I feel that the music is where the live-action remake fell a little bit flat.
But I liked the visuals, I like the comedy, I like how they answered some of the questions and closed some of the plot holes that were in the original. Like how the heck did a 120-pound girl get a 400-pound beast on the back of her Clydesdale, little things like that. And the fact they made Chip an only child, closed that hole of questions, who are the little kids in the cupboard and why can't they talk too? I really enjoyed it, I thought it was really well done and it was a lot of fun.
Pierce continues to do voice work and will next be seen playing a detective in "Deacon," more darker fare for him, as well as the short film "Blind." Follow him on Facebook and Twitter for more updates.