There were two amazing ‘90s movies that made a huge impression on me growing up, and those two movies were…Jurassic Park and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. God, I love those movies. But, two other movies that I also greatly enjoyed as a child were Jumanji and Space Jam, which were two flicks that you kind of just went to see with your family and enjoyed, but then forgot about when you went back home again.
Flash forward to the 2000s, and EVERYBODY loves Space Jam and Jumanji. Little kids who weren’t even alive back in 1996 can be seen wearing Tune Squad t-shirts. And because of the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Kevin Hart reboot, you have plenty of kids these days who absolutely love Jumanji. But, I was there, man. I saw both of those movies in the theater, and now that I’m a parent with two kids of my own, I often wonder what the better family adventure movie is for them to watch.
Now, granted, with this match-up, I’m not saying what’s the better overall movie—I would say Jumanji by a mile, but only because I’m a sucker for Robin Williams. Instead, I’m debating which is the better FAMILY adventure movie that you can actually watch as a family. So, with that in mind, which is the best family adventure flick? Well, you’re about to find out.
All family adventures need a good story. So, which family adventure movie has the better one?
There’s a magical board game called Jumanji that a brother and sister find in an attic. When they play the game, they unleash one of its first players (Robin Williams) who got stuck in the game as a child. Every time they roll the dice, some scary, jungle-themed thing comes out of it, like giant spiders, a man-eating plant, and even a wild stampede. But, they must play in order to save their new (adult) friend. Peril ensues!
Space Jam’s story
An evil businessman (voiced by Danny DeVito) who owns an amusement park wants a new attraction, so he’s just going to up and take the Looney Tune characters. Crafty Bugs Bunny challenges them to a basketball game for…reasons. The businessman is like, cool, but I’m going to make my own team, and then he pulls the talent from NBA players like Charles Barkley and Larry Bird, and puts them into his own aliens. So, Bugs decides to enlist a recently retired Michael Jordan to even the odds. Then they play basketball. I’m dead serious. That’s the plot of Space Jam.
The Story Winner
I was so Michael Jordan-crazy as a kid, that I honestly didn’t even pay attention to the plot back then, but it’s pretty bad, even by dumb kid standards. Jumanji’s plot, however, is super interesting, and a first time viewer is always on the edge of their seat wondering what could possibly come out of the board game next. So, Jumanji wins in the story department, by, like, a lot!
All stories need good characters to carry the plot forward. So, which film has the better characters?
Yes, Spider-Man’s own, Kirsten Dunst is in this film, but kids today don’t care. Nor will they likely care about Robin Williams’ character. So, while the adults might find this group’s adventure interesting, most kids will probably just shrug them off and be more interested in the actual things coming out of the board game instead. For them, the characters could be anybody.
Space Jam’s Characters
Do your kids like cartoons? Yes? Then Space Jam is the movie for them. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and a way too sexy Lola Bunny (I had…feelings back then, about Lola Bunny) are all here, but so are Michael Jordan, Bill Murray (huh?) and Wayne Knight (why?), who are all pretty great for the adults who get stuck watching this crazy movie.
The Characters Winner
Kids today still love cartoons, and the Looney Tunes characters are cartoons, so kids will automatically like the characters in Space Jam better. So, Space Jam is the winner.
Action is a crucial element in any adventure story. So, which movie has the best action?
There is a lot of tension in Jumanji as the kids try their best to finish the board game. In this way, there is always something going on, and it just gets worse and worse for the characters, especially with the big-game hunter, Van Pelt, hunting Alan down.
Space Jam’s action is mostly on the basketball court. But, being that this is a cartoon interacting with live-action, there’s a lot of slapstick and silly details that kids are sure to love, like Bugs Bunny stealing the ball on a moped. Or explosives on the backboard that blow up when the bad guys try to dunk. It’s all very Harlem Globetrotters-esque, but even sillier.
The Action Winner
Look, like I said up top, I much prefer Jumanji to Space Jam, but if I’m thinking about a movie that whole families can enjoy, then I would have to pick Space Jam, but only because, depending on the audience, some of the action in Jumanji might be a little terrifying for younger viewers. Space Jam is innocuous and enjoyable enough for everybody.
The Most Memorable Scenes
Both movies have some memorable scenes, but which film has the most memorable ones?
Jumanji’s Most Memorable Scenes
I vividly remember a lot of Jumanji’s most memorable moments since they really stuck out to me. The stampede is the one I remember the most, but the giant spiders, the man-eating plant, the lion...Seriously, pretty much every new thing that came out of that board game was memorable. Scary even.
Space Jam’s Most Memorable Scenes
Honestly, there isn’t much to remember, scene-wise, in Space Jam, other than Michael Jordan being pulled down into the hole, and him stretching his arm to score the game winning basket. Otherwise, the only other major memorable aspect about Space Jam was the live-action mixed with the Looney Tunes characters, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit did it even earlier. And better, too, if you ask me.
The Most Memorable Scenes Winner
I think the idea of Space Jam is much more memorable than the actual scenes themselves. So, Jumanji wins!
Both films have pretty enduring legacies, but which film’s legacy holds up the most?
When people heard that there was going to be a reboot to the Jumanji franchise, I remember it left a lot of people scratching their heads. And then people saw it, and they LOVED IT. Then the sequel came out, and audiences liked that one, too. In fact, for most kids, this is their Jumanji. So, the reboot has actually replaced the original film for kids these days, which is interesting, to say the very least.
Space Jam’s Legacy
Yes, Space Jam 2 is coming, but I’m pretty sure that most kids already knew there was a Space Jam, and not just because there’s a "2" at the end of this new one. As I mentioned in the intro, I’ve been seeing Tune Squad jerseys for years. So, one might say that Space Jam has an even more enduring legacy than Jumanji just for this fact alone, since that first film has endured for all these years by itself.
The Legacy Winner
So, here’s the thing. Jumanji had to reinvent itself, while Space Jam has been able to sustain its popularity WITHOUT reinvention. So, even though I tend to think that a new, fresh take shows that the idea alone is strong enough, I also think that because Space Jam was able to sustain itself all of this time on just that one film, it shows that it has better longevity than Jumanji. So, Space Jam wins.
The Overall Winner
It pains me to say this since I MUCH prefer Jumanji, but I think Space Jam is the better FAMILY adventure movie. What do you think? Do you agree, or do you think that Jumanji is the better family film? Sound off in the poll below! I’d love to hear your thoughts.