Zathura Review

Nov 14, 2005 | 6:09am EST

Based on the children’s book by Jumanji author Chris Van Allsburg Zathura shows what happens when 6-year-old Danny (Jonah Bobo) starts playing an old tattered metal game he finds in his divorced dad’s wooden house. Danny’s 10 year-old brother Walter (Josh Hutcherson) doesn’t want to have anything to do with the stupid game--or his annoying little brother for that matter. But Walter is forced to take notice when to his horror their house is pummeled by meteors after being propelled into deepest darkest outer space. See while Jumanji game is all about jungle perils Zathura’s game is set in space in which equally dangerous obstacles are at hand. The more they play the worse things get. The only way to get back to Earth is to finish the game--at whatever cost. Sound familiar? Newcomers Bobo and Hutcherson are convincing as kids caught in divorce. Little Danny doesn’t quite understand what it all means but Walter is all too aware--and he blames Danny for their parents’ split. Hutcherson does a fine job conveying the emotions tied up in such family turmoil and Bobo--albeit a tad cutesy and screechy--follows suit. As the boys’ older sister Kristen Stewart (Panic Room) is the typical surly teenager saddled with babysitting her pesky brothers while dad is out. She ignores them mostly--until she realizes the house is surrounded by carnivorous lizard-like creatures called Zorgons. That gets her attention. As far as the adults go Dax Shepard (Without a Paddle) is an astronaut the boys pick up along the way who holds a key to the plot while Tim Robbins makes a nice little cameo as the beleaguered father. Actor/director Jon Favreau who gave us the delightful Elf is still toying with his inner child with Zathura. Obviously with the special effects and what not this is his biggest undertaking so far. But Favreau manages to bring things er down to earth as it were. He easily taps into all those boyhood memories of playing space cowboys and flying rocket ships--as well as expertly guiding his young cast. The problem with Zathura is it is too much like its predecessor Jumanji but without talents such as Robin Williams and Bonnie Hunt to back it up. Of course if you’ve never seen Jumanji Zathura will seem like a fun ride for the whole family. But if you have you may come to the conclusion the original already set the bar.

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