Thursday, February 16, 2006

ZATHURA

Josh Hutcherson Zathura Movie Directed by Jon Favreau
Reviewed by Byron Merritt

SURPRISING THUMBS UP!

A SURPRISING THUMBS UP FILM REVIEW RATING!

Open your imagination to the world of ZATHURA. Kids and adults alike will revel in this great story about two young brothers who find an old board-style game called Zathura that literally launches them and their home into outer-space. Danny (Jonah Bobo, AROUND THE BEND, 2004) and Walter (Josh Hutcherson, AMERICAN SPLENDOR, 2003) are the brothers and when their father (Tim Robbins, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, 1994) leaves them alone with their teenage sister (Kirsten Stewart, PANIC ROOM, 2002) for a few minutes, worlds collide and their home becomes a space-bound asteroid, but not because of any interstellar cataclysm. It’s all related to the game Zathura that the younger Danny finds and begins playing.


Their father’s beautiful arts and crafts style home is magically transported to the nether reaches of space and as the boys play the game — in an attempt to get back to Earth — more and more bizarre occurrences happen. A meteor shower pummels the house. A defective robot tries to kill the elder brother, Walter. Zorgons, weird, space-faring lizard-men, track their home because of the warmth radiating off it. A stranded spaceman joins the duo and has much more vested in the game than we could ever imagine. Walter and Danny’s sister goes into cryogenic sleep for "five turns" only to awaken in the midst of this spaceflight odyssey.


Can the boys make it home? Will they be able to finish the game? Can they put aside their sibling rivalries and become loving brothers? Why is the stranded astronaut helping them? What will Dad say when he gets home and finds out there is no home?
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There’s been a lot of controversial talk amongst film-o-philes about this movie and JUMANJI. There’s no doubt that there’s an incredibly strong similarity between the two (a house being overrun by animals versus space creatures; a family in crisis that’s forced to come together; a board game that recreates a fantasy; a happy ending that occurs before adults arrive back in the picture; and so on).


Regardless of those striking comparisons, Zathura is a really fun film to watch. The two brothers are believable, and when they fight it reminded me of the great arguments I had with my brothers when I was growing up.


The amazingly beautiful arts and crafts home. It was painful watching it get destroyed piece by piece. Sitting on a gimbal, too, it was surprising (watching the special features on the DVD) to learn that director Jon Favreau used minimal digital special effects and built miniatures, etc. in order to get the desired effects for the film.


The ridiculous nature of the story allowed me to suspend disbelief and just go with it. We all know that fire doesn’t burn in outer-space (they light a sofa on fire and kick it out the door), and that a person could never survive fifteen years floating around in space in a spacesuit (the astronaut), but so what.


I was also a tad surprised about the astronaut. I’d surmised quite a bit about the movie as it continued (being able to guess pretty easily what was going to happen next and why) but when the true nature of the stranded astronaut came to light, I felt a bit choked-up (yeah, yeah, I know).


So sit back and enjoy the film, and try not to get overly critical about its obvious relation to JUMANJI.

Click here for the Zathura movie trailer!

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