In the 1995 action adventure movie, Jumanji arrived in cinemas. The film, about a young boy called Alan Parrish who finds himself magically transported inside a board game, starred Robin Williams and Bonnie Hunt.
Since its release, Jumanji has become a firm favourite with audiences, providing plenty of action and entertainment. However, there is one thing which has perplexed some fans ever since Jumanji made its debut and that revolves around actor Jonathan Hyde.
In Jumanji, Jonathan Hyde plays two roles: Samuel Parrish and Van Pelt. Samuel is Alan’s father, while Van Pelt is a hunter who stalks Alan throughout the movie.
So, what gives? Why does this one actor play two roles?
Samuel Parrish and Van Pelt
Towards the beginning of Jumanji, it is established that Alan has a very uneasy relationship with his father. Samuel Parrish wants his son to follow in his footsteps, in education and in work, and this causes a rift between the two.
While Samuel is not a villain in the movie, as it is clear he only wants the best for his son, this fractious relationship does introduce some conflict between the two characters. And when Alan finds himself trapped in the Jumanji board game for 26 years, it means the two never resolve their differences before Samuel passes away.
On the flip-side, Van Pelt is a hunter who is introduced midway through the film to become the movie’s main villain. Van Pelt is a character who is transported out of the Jumanji board game, and his sole aim is to hunt and kill Alan.
Van Pelt never achieves his goal, but he does come close. However, for the majority of his screen time he mostly tracks Alan through the town of Brantford.
As noted above, both Samuel and Van Pelt are played by the same actors. The reason for this is fairly straight forward, and it is all to do with Alan.
As established early into the movie, Alan has spent some of his childhood afraid of his father. He is afraid that he is never good enough for Samuel, and will never live up to his expectations.
When Alan enters the Jumanji board game as a child, he takes that fear with him. Alan internalises it; it never goes away and remains with him for the next 26 years.
So, when Alan is freed from the game as an adult, and Jumanji subsequently creates a villain for Alan to face, this villain becomes a representation of what he fears the most – his father. And the best way to link Alan’s father and Van Pelt together (for audiences), is by having the same actor play the two roles!
When Alan flees from Van Pelt in the movie, he is metaphorically running away from the problems he had with his dad, all those years ago. Decades may have passed since they spoke, but Alan has still not got over the differences he had with his dad – and that’s what Van Pelt represents.
It is only later, when Alan faces up to his fear and demonstrates he is not the little boy who was once afraid of his father, that he can complete the game. In doing this, Van Pelt returns to the Jumanji board game, time is reset, and Alan is able to make peace with his dad – who lives in the new timeline that is established at the end of the movie.
Some people don’t notice that Samuel and Van Pelt are played by the same actor, and this element of the story simply passes by. But for those who do spot the connection, it was intentional and added some depth to Alan’s journey.
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