Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Zathura

MPAA Rating: PG for fantasy action and peril, and some language

Reviewed by: Bob Rossiter
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Kids, Family
Genre:
Action, Based on a Book, Fantasy, Kids, Science Fiction
Length:
1 hr. 35 min.
Year of Release:
2005
Featuring: Josh Hutcherson, Jonah Bobo, Dax Shepard, Kristen Stewart, Tim Robbins
Director: Jon Favreau
Producer: Michael De Luca, Scott Kroopf, William Teitler
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Copyright, Sony Pictures
Copyright, Sony Pictures
Copyright, Sony Pictures
Copyright, Sony Pictures
Copyright, Sony Pictures
Copyright, Sony Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Sony Pictures

Adventure is waiting. / A new adventure from the world of “Jumanji”

Ok, I have to admit it. I wasn’t a big fan of “Jumanji”. “Zathura”, on the other hand, is a different story. I disliked the spiritism of “Jumanji”, but that element is gone from the sequel. This is one of the best movie adaptations of a children’s book I’ve seen.

The movie starts off with two brothers, Walter (Josh Hutcherson) and Danny (Jonah Bobo), fighting for dad’s attention (played by Tim Robbins). Both are dealing with security and personal-worth issues because of the divorce of their parents. Walter, the older one, inwardly blames his brother for the divorce, and feels Danny gets more attention. He copes by battling for attention and constantly making “put-down” remarks about, and to, his brother. Danny looks up to his big brother and wants to enjoy time with him, but also feels worthless compared to him. The only way Danny can think of to feel important is to cheat at games with Walter, so he does it regularly.

One of Walter’s acts of meanness is what leads to the discovery of the game. Danny hides from him in a dumbwaiter, but when Walter finds him there, he forcibly lowers Danny to the basement. Danny finds the game and brings it upstairs, wanting Walter to play Zathura with him. Danny starts the game board moving, which places them in space and forces them to work together to get back home. After the game first starts, they realize they are in over their heads, so they wake their sister, Lisa (Kristen Stewart). While trying to show her the game, however, she gets placed in cryogenic sleep. They are on their own to find a solution to their predicament.

Walter and Danny don’t know how to work together, so the game places them in deeper and deeper trouble. They rescue a stranded astronaut (Dax Shepard) who seems to have insight into both space and the game. He tries to teach the boys they must love each other and learn to work together if they are to ever win the game and get home.

There are a lot of family pressures revealed in the movie, but due to the important topics being dealt with, I did not feel this overdone. Some discussion with young viewers is recommended, however, on what sibling relationships should be like.

There is a lot of intense action violence as Walter and Danny learn what it really takes to win at the game—and at life. At one point, Danny cheats, so the game ejects Walter from the game (and into space). There is also a scene with lizard-like aliens that some younger children could have a hard time with, but the music is probably more dramatic at that point than the action.

There are about a half-dozen light obscenities and an equal number of times that God’s name is misused. There are also two times when Lisa is shown getting out of bed wearing just short shorts and a tank top. There is no sexual activity or comments other than a statement from Lisa that the astronaut has beautiful eyes. Walter later teases her about liking his eyes.

“Zathura” successfully deals with several difficult topics. One theme is that bad attitudes can crop up between siblings when a tragedy like divorce occurs in a family. The movie then teaches that the poor choices we make effect others. It also shows how important unity is when dealing with a crisis. Because these themes are the primary focus of this movie, I think “Zathura” is acceptable, as long as children are old enough to handle the action. The acting is good and the special effects excellent.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Minor

Year of Release—2005 / USA release: November 11, 2005 (wide).

Viewer Comments
Neutral—I took my 10 year-old son and his 9 year-old friend to a “sneak peek” viewing of “Zathura” based only on the commercials we had seen and the assumption that “it’s only rated PG, so it’s probably okay.” Although the story was very creative, and the special effects were impressive, I feel the fright value was VERY high for a PG movie. So much so, that my son and his friend covered their eyes and ears quite a bit and finally asked if we could leave because it was just too scary. Their fright came from too much suspense in not knowing what was going to happen next, and too many “jump in your seat” surprises. There was also a considerable amount of course language and profanity.

I think teenagers would probably enjoy it very much, but I caution anyone against taking younger children.
My Ratings: Average / 4½
—Lisa B, age 41
Neutral—As a sci-fi movie “Zathura” is fairly entertaining. If you liked “Jumanji”, you’ll most likely enjoy “Zathura”. Think “Jumanji” in space, and you get the picture. The only real problem I had with this film is the inappropriate use of profanity by young children. A 6 yr. old child calls his brother a slang word of the male body part. His older brother also used the “B” word. Totally inappropriate and unnecessary. Why does Hollywood insist on doing this?

There is a lot of peril in this movie which frightened many younger viewers in the theater. Especially frightening were the half-lizard and half-human looking “Gorgons.” Think “Jurassic Park” T-Rex. Be warned.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 3½
—Dave, age 38
Positive—My 14 year old son and I went on opening day. Besides a plot that was foretold in “Jumanji” there were several unexpected twists. You will find your self laughing out loud several times throughout the movie. There were two objectionable words said by the older brother during the first 15 minutes of the movie. No sexual overtones from the boys at all. All in all it was an entertaining film that I will probably end up buying.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4½
—Robert Neal, age 50
Neutral—Saw “Zathura” with my 12 year-old-daughter. A few observations: This move is LOUD (amplified noise level), and it is DARK (very few daytime scenes). So these two elements add to the “intensity” of many of the scenes. The effects were good, and the movie moved along at a nice pace. While I did not like some the language, it was mild compared to what I overhear when I am at the mall and a pack of pre-teens pass. I enjoyed watching Walter “mature” during the film—from a person who agitates his brother to becoming the protector of his brother. This growth made for a nice talking point with my daughter afterwards. Bravery in the face of adversity and learning to think about others instead of oneself are two themes to talk about.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Jeff Mc, age 46
Positive—The movie of the year has finally arrived for those who were anticipating the long awaited sequel to Jumanji. Zathura is the story of a two boys being raised by a divorced father, both struggling to find as much love and attention from their ever loving father. Yes, I said “ever loving” father, played by Tim Robbins. The fatherly image in this movie is just awesome, showing that it is indeed possible to be a positive and loving role model to your kids, while still displaying strength and leadership.

Zathura brings to life two struggling brothers who are at each others throats with every breath in their being. The older brother (Danny) constantly putting down his little (Walter) brother and a little brother doing what ever he can to win his brothers approval. Finally while seeking some time alone the older brother locks his younger brother in the basement, where he finds the classic board game “Zathura”. Excited to play this new game, he works his way up the stairs and plops on the floor and the game begins. However, not the way he thought. The beginning role, thrusting his entire home into outer space on a journey of fighting alien, maneuvering through time warps, avoiding a collision with asteroids, and even a voyage of self discovering. Accompanying the two boys on their journey is their older sister and an abandoned astronaut.

I was absolutely amazed by the family values this movie, showing the importance of each and every person in ones family, especially the bond between sibling rivals. The director strives to show the realistic nature of two brothers who fight constantly and who deep down really care about one another. I was reminded so vividly of the relationship between my brother and I while I was growing up, with all of the arguing and fighting while still preserving the closeness which sustained us till today. However, my brother was not nearly the representation of Danny, in the brutal fashion he displayed to his brother Walter. There are endless lessons to learn in this movie and for this I would have to really encourage older kids to see this movie. (However, Parents Read Below) Some may find the lessons too direct and too preachy lines, however this is the way movies used to be made and the way I wish more were like.

The acting was very good with the exception of young Walter. He was just incredible. The character he played was a young boy struggling to find out his strengths and desiring to have the recognition and love he desperately needs. This boy can truly become the Dakota Fanning of the male genre if he strives to do so and works on his rolls. Tim Robbins does excellent as the dad and thankfully he is not promoting a political agenda in this movie, as he does in almost every other movie he is in. Tim Robbins plays the father of the family who recently went through a divorce and a man who truly loves each and every child for the gifts they possess and the people they are. Everyone else in the movie is good and even the Dinogators did pretty well as well.

Zathura was the cinematic adaptation of children ’s book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg. I have not read the book, however, if it is anything like the movie, then I am sure that it is a great read.

Parental Warning: OK here is the scoop parents: There are about 4 bad words in the movie. Not just bad words in passing but they are LOUD and RECOGNIZABLE. In the first 3 minutes young Walter yes the D word as loud as he can at his brother. Many in the theater were pretty shocked because of the verboseness of the delivery of the word and it does leave an impression. The is another word that stick out as well, “BEOTCH” which is the new cool slang for the B word.

The sister in the movie also shows a bit too much skin for my recommendation however that could just be my over protective nature. She walks around her in tank top and very short boxer shorts most of the movie and she is too old to be doing so.

The aliens in the movie might scare some of the VERY young kids because they are pretty raunchy looking with their shark teeth and they keep chasing the kids into corners. However, over 7 should be fine.

The movie has a very well deserved PG rating and in some cases may even be a bit low. I DO recommend this movie to kids with knowing what the content is. The movie is not much worse in inappropriateness than most PG movies and the morals far surpass that of most this year.
My Ratings: Average / 4
—John Kehrli, age 31
Neutral—My ten year old son was hiding during a lot of the movie. I feel there was way to much suspense/scare to be a PG film. It was a great movie. I enjoyed it a lot. The only other “bad” thing I would say about it is some offensive language is used that I really didn ’t appreciate my son hearing.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4½
—Amy, age 29
Negative—The incest overtones in this movie were clear, so much so that I can ’t believe no one else has commented on them. The teenage girl is smitten with the astronaut, who turns out to be her brother at an older age. She learns this and exclaims, “And to think that I wanted to--” She wanted to have sex with the astronaut. I see no other way to interpret it. She had earlier complimented the astronaut on his eyes and later her brother asks if she still thinks he has beautiful eyes, just to reinforce the notion that she was physically attracted to her brother. This has no place in any children ’s movie.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 3
—Randall Clark, age 47

Comments from young people
Positive—…I liked it. …a lot of fun; the only objection to it is practically the first thing the younger brother says is a rather shocking insult to his brother.…
My Ratings: Average / 4
—Daniel Robison, age 17
Neutral—I thought it was a good movie overall, but there were a few blemishes. There was a part at the beginning where the smaller brother, 6, called his other brother, 10, a slang word for a male body part and their older sister, 17, cusses 2 times, and they use the word “suck” I do not recommend taking smaller kids, because my friend ’s little brother, 6, almost cried in the movie ’cause it was so intense, and the sister near the beginning walked around in her underwear. But, overall, I thought it was a good movie.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 5
—Jasmine Shelton, age 11
Neutral—I went to see this movie with my two teenaged brothers and our aunt. The movie had pretty cool visual effects. Some parts of the movie did not make sense, like when the astronaut had been floating around in space for many years and had not run out of oxygen—and how the kids were just fine without oxygen tanks or masks. Also when they finally returned home that they just agreed not to tell anyone about their traumatic experience in space, that they were just fine after almost being killed. It was a good movie, and I don ’t regret seeing it, but I wouldn ’t dish out the money to see it in the theater, wait for it to come to the video store.
My Ratings: Average / 4
—Amy, age 17
Positive—An excellent movie for young kids and young teens
My Ratings: Good / 3
—mary, age 15
Positive—I was expecting this movie to be another cheezy kids movie; I was wrong, it was really good. I watched this movie with my 14 yr. old brother and my parents. We all loved it. There were a few objectional explanations, but I personally didn ’t find them that extreme. The movie is pretty suspenseful and has a neat twist near the end. I don ’t think it would be the best movie for little kids. Anyone over 9, in my opinion, could handle it. This movie is worth seeing.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Sarah, age 16
Neutral—Pretty well acted film, though not entirly innocent. These little kids go on a rather disturbing adventure, and some little kids may not be able to catch what’s going on. There was no violence to even mention. (And whatever there was involves a “robot” getting smashed.) Me and my brother watched it, and at one point, the little bro calls the older one, something worse than a “B****.” All in all, this movie was, OK.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 3
—Ruthy, age 12