Zathura Movie Review

In Zathura, a board game magically comes alive when played, thrusting its participants into a wild adventure through outer space. Based on a children's book by Chris Van Allsburg, Zathura shares a striking resemblance to another Van Allsburg book turned movie called Jumanji. Each film centers on kids who get sucked into oddly-titled-board games gone wild. While the concept works magically on paper, the translation to film has not been so successful. Marginal special effects and a heavy-handed dead-end plot crippled Jumanji. And unfortunately, Zathura suffers from the same problems as its predecessor.

In the film, pre-teen brothers Danny and Walter (Jonah Bobo and Josh Hutcherson) are always at odds with each other. Because Walter is a few years older and more independent, he wants nothing to do with Danny. But Danny is full of energy and desperate for some attention. Yet, everyone else in his broken family is sadly unavailable. Danny's older sister (Kristen Stewart) is too consumed with teenage boys; his dad (Tim Robbins) is too wrapped up with this work; and his mom is only available for selected visitation periods. What Danny wants most is to play with his brother.

While spending the weekend at their dad's creepy old house, a bored Danny finds a game called Zathura tucked away under the basement stairs. The game seems simple enough -- turn a key, push a button, and a card pops out with instructions on how to move your game piece. But because Walter thinks Danny cheats at board games, he's unwilling to participate and Danny must play alone. His first card warns of a meteor shower. Moments later, a heavy barrage of meteors attack the house and the boys are forced to take cover in the fireplace. Once the storm passes, Danny and Walter are shocked to find their house magically floating through space on a pile of rocks, dirt, and debris. Each new card that Danny and Walter draw brings them closer to the game's end, but also triggers a new series of frightening events for them to encounter.

Zathura -- Game on!

And what a boring game it turns out to be once it actually gets started! Zathura spends a ridiculous amount of time at the beginning to establish the fact that the boys hate each other. For nearly 30 minutes, we're subject to non-stop, obnoxious yelling and screaming between Danny and Walter. Then, once the house is in space, the arguing continues as the pair decide how to combat an out of control robot with circular saw blade hands and heat-seeking alien lizards with sharp teeth. The meager special effects creations are far from intriguing or memorable. They look like cheap imitations of scarier monsters from other movies, which may be too much for some younger children to handle.

In the end, Zathura is such a mess that the backstory it spends time developing is completely ignored. The film is so consumed with throwing whatever it can at these boys that they're never afforded a believable chance to reconcile their relationship. Kids may not care, but adults who believe Zathura will teach kids a lesson on working together should pass on this space trash.

Adventure is waiting. Literally.


Comments

Zathura Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: PG, 2005

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