Columbia Pictures’ remake of the 1995 fantasy-adventure film Jumanji has been in development for several years. Zach Helm (Stranger Than Fiction) was first hired to pen the script back in 2012. The project lay dormant until Sony, the studio’s owner, recently gave the movie a Christmas Day 2016 release date. News then broke that Scott Rosenberg (Con Air) had signed on to rewrite the script for the project, which is said to be a new take on the Chris Van Allsburg book of the same name rather than based on the original film.
The beloved classic, which starred the late Robin Williams and a young Kirsten Dunst (Fargo), revolves around a pair of siblings who unwittingly bring a jungle-themed board game’s magical and dangerous world to life. Columbia co-head Doug Belgrad has said that the plan for the new version is to “try and reimagine ‘Jumanji’ and update it for the present.” Given the time constraints, the studio is now quickly forging ahead with the project by announcing the hiring of the film’s director.
According to THR, Bad Teacher director Jake Kasdan has signed on to helm the film, with a script penned by Rosenberg and Jeff Pinkner (The Amazing Spider-Man 2). The duo worked from another script draft penned by Chris McKenna (Community) and Erik Sommers (American Dad!).
Kasdan, the son of acclaimed screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) has worked exclusively on comedies to date. The writer, director and occasional actor’s movie credits include Orange County, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, and, more recently, the critically-panned box office bomb Sex Tape, co-starring Jason Segal and Bad Teacher’s Cameron Diaz. He has since taken his talents exclusively to the small screen, currently serving as executive producer on three sitcoms: New Girl, Fresh Off the Boat and The Grinder. Kasdan first got his start in television working alongside Judd Apatow on the cult shows Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared.
Kasdan may seem like an odd choice to direct a family-friendly film given that he’s best known for his raunchy comedies, but Sony may be willing to give him a chance given his more recent and successful track record working on more wholesome fare on TV. His experience in the genre could prove to be an asset given that the latest iteration of the script has been written by screenwriters that don’t have a background in comedy. The first Jumanji had plenty of action, but also relied heavily on the comedic talents of Williams, playing a character that didn't actually appear in the original illustrated book.
Kasdan’s biggest challenge on Jumanji will be the tight schedule to produce what is likely to be a special effects-driven film by the end of the year, unless the studio is willing or expecting to push back its release date. Sony’s challenge for the Jumanji remake is to find a way to appeal to both nostalgia-filled millennials (some of who are already upset with them for messing with a classic film from their childhood), as well as their kids who may not be familiar with the original movie or its source material.
If successful, the studio is hoping to launch a new high-budget franchise starting with the Jumanji - something that didn't happen with either the 1995 film version (which included a last-minute teaser of additional adventures) or the 2005 Van Allsburg book adaptation, Zathura: A Space Adventure. Screen Rant will keep you updated on the cast and other details on the project as they become available.
Jumanji is currently scheduled to hit U.S. theaters on December 25th, 2016.