Movie Review
Zathura poster
By Scott Sycamore     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
3 of 3
This movie does nothing with the premise. By the halfway point, I realized how much of a sham the whole thing was.
Remember Jumanji? Well, I never saw it but I do know that it was based on a book by Chris van Allsburg, who wrote the basis for this movie as well. In fact, the posters are touting Zathura as being "from the world of Jumanji." So it's not just a hackish retread of a previous story that found success? Weird - it certainly felt like one to me. I know that the original Jumanji was about a board game that brought wild animals to life in a house and whatnot; this movie is the exact same thing, except the house floats around in space and sometimes gets attacked by hostile enemy ships. Sound exciting? Well, it's not.

This movie is about two young brothers who are home without their single dad (a cameo-riffic Tim Robbins). A babysitter comes by, but she disappears for most of the film. The younger brother (Jonah Bobo) - the "main character," if he can even be called that - finds an old and dusty board game while snooping around the house. Did I mention that this kid can be pretty annoying? In fact, this whole movie has a high irritation factor. Take the board game that the kid finds: Turns out, playing the thing sends your house into space, and it flies around the universe in a potentially dangerous board game-made-real. Fantasy becomes reality, but there are potential pitfalls. And that's it. This movie does nothing with the premise. By the halfway point, I realized how much of a sham the whole thing was; I lost interest completely after that.

I would expect that anybody without a very childish sensibility will be quite disappointed by this offering. It's a family movie in the overly cutesy and banal sense of the word. I like Jon Favreau - the director - and realize that he must be a family man and therefore is attracted to these kinds of stories, but he should find better material. Maybe he just needed a job and figured that this had a chance for box-office success given its pedigree (even though it only has one big star, and in a small role at that). Or maybe he was desperate and took anything he was offered. Either way, he failed to make this flick compelling even on the level of something like Made (B-). I realize that it's very different material, but then again one shouldn't do something that doesn't suit their strengths.

There's not all that much one can say about this flick: it's forgettable and it sucks. It's the sad state of Hollywood now that every movie is a kiddie-friendly heap of dung. Movies were boring as hell back in the 70's, but at least they were made with a remotely mature audience in mind. Now it's the reverse, and you have to wade through murky waters to find an intelligent and compelling film like Crash (A-). But can you blame Hollywood for cranking out these new abominations? I mean, the films that profit gangbusters nowadays are Harry Potter, Shrek, and the like.

The only real pleasure I took from this movie was near the beginning when they have recently found the board game, and it is unclear what is going to happen next. The boys play the game, and cards pop out of the thing and describe the next situation (which happens around or in their house). We feel for a moment the wonder of discovery that this movie is supposed to evoke. But alas, it only lasts for a brief period. And the rest is a huge mass of inanity.
Scott's Grade: C-
Ranked #3 of 3 between Mondovino (#2) and (#) for 2005 movies.
Scott's Overall Grading: 417 graded movies
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'Zathura' Articles
  • Lee's review C
    November 9, 2005    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. -- Lee Tistaert