Movie Review
Zathura poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published November 9, 2005
US Release: November 11, 2005

Directed by: Jon Favreau
Starring: Jonah Bobo , Josh Hutcherson , Tim Robbins , Dax Shepard

Running Time: 113 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $28,046,000
81 of 143
This is very much a kid?s movie on a strict basis, but I?m even wondering if many of them will be won over by it.
Zathura is an odd directing choice for Jon Favreau, who debuted behind the camera with the low-key comedy, Made (B-), and followed that up with the also low-key, crowd-pleasing comedy, Elf (B-). This time Favreau brings to life a story by David Koepp, who wrote Spielberg?s War of the Worlds (B). For Zathura, Koepp adapted a book (of the same name) by Chris Van Allsberg, who wrote the novels for Jumanji (B-) and The Polar Express (C). If you?ve seen those flicks, you know that Allsberg writes ?from level-to-level?-type stories: his adventures are like a video game in that the characters are thrown from here-to-there (like advancing levels) along their journey.

While I enjoyed Jumanji for what it was, Polar Express bored me immensely: the visual effects were the only enticing factor, and the movie was in need of a story. Its characters got on a train and experienced one level after another of random (and pointless) happenings on the train, and the story had one corny message in the end ? a message that the trailer even gave away. Zathura plays by the same formula for the most part, except that the movie doesn?t even have visual effects to fall back on while the story lulls you into a deep sleep. This is very much a kid?s movie on a strict basis, but I?m even wondering if many of them will be won over by it.

The movie is about two kids who discover a board game in their attic that supposedly transports you into space in order to carry out the levels. They participate and their home is immediately transported, and the only way back home is to win the game ? a task that doesn?t come easy. Each different level they embark on sends various ships flying around their house trying to harm them, and even sets things inside their home to track them down ? to which they have to fight off.

There is also a slight hint of The Lost World: Jurassic Park (B-) in its happenings, which was also a level-to-level-like ride, except Spielberg had a better grip at staging sequences in comparison. Favreau starts Zathura out with a promising opening credits sequence that had me getting ready for an adventure, and the introduction to space was quite captivating; I was impressed by the visual effects and the sound since this is his first big production. But pretty soon the tension and awe faded, as it became clear that this was a shallow story to the nth degree ? not much actually happens throughout. Most of the flick is spent inside the house with these two annoying kids figuring things out, and it turns into an absolute bore and remains that way to the end. And there?s not much of a reason to care about the kids, as the setup is very cheesy family material. In the end, Zathura doesn?t even have a message to present. This is simply supposed to be a mindless journey that two kids go on for ?fun,? and they don?t learn anything along the way. If this sounds like fun to you, be my guest, but I found Zathura to be mostly pointless.
Lee's Grade: C
Ranked #81 of 143 between Doom (#80) and Fantastic Four (#82) for 2005 movies.
Lee's Overall Grading: 2995 graded movies
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'Zathura' Articles
  • Scott's review C-
    November 9, 2005    This movie does nothing with the premise. By the halfway point, I realized how much of a sham the whole thing was. -- Scott Sycamore