Eye For Film >> Movies >> Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005) Film Review
Jon Favreau does a favour for parents everywhere by crafting a very decent family adventure which won't bore or annoy them with the usual wacky kids movie japes and numerous toy and fast food merchandising tie-ins.
The marketing which I have seen for the film, does not really do it any favours. Going in to this I was told that Zathura was "A Jumanji Adventure". It is based on a book by the same author and offers up the same storyline: kids find old board game, kids play old board game, wackiness ensues, kids learn important life lesson, game over. But instead of an over-indulgent CGI splurge, Zathura provides more wit and imagination.
The central idea of a suburban house floating through the galaxy has such an elastic and goofy kind of sense to it that a grain of salt is never needed in such instances as coming under attack from fire-loving, meat-eating, giant lizards in Fifties-style spaceships. From the title credits onwards there is a certain air of nostalgia that runs throughout.
Zathura is a big special effects movie, but it is great to see that it favours a return to practical effects work over CGI, reminding those who have seen them of Eighties space adventures, such as Explorers and Flight Of The Navigator.
The two leads are the film's weakest link. The performances of the two young actors is fine with what the script has given them, but a whole 90-minute feature, with the two of them bickering at each other and screaming and shouting at the obstacles they come across would get tiresome pretty quickly. Thankfully, an adult is close at hand, in the shape of Dax Shepard - his real name, how cool is that? - playing The Astronaut, and to say anymore of his true identity would spoil the film's neatest twist, which also provides the funniest and cleverest moment. Tim Robbins also puts in a nice cameo, as the kids' dad, which bookends the film.
The audience will forgive any shortcomings in an instant. There is much to get their teeth into - flying houses, Zorgons, fireball planets and a psychotic robot, reinforcing the Fifties throwback design attitude. And for us adults, we have to figure out how we are going to drop the phrase "time sphincter" into everyday conversations from now on.Reviewed on: 03 Feb 2006