Reviewed by: Bob Rossiter
Action, Based on a Book, Fantasy, Kids, Science Fiction
1 hr. 35 min.
Year of Release:
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).