Publicity Stills of "Zathura"
(Courtesy from Columbia TriStar)

Photo credit: Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Photo credit: Merrick Morton

Photo credit: Merrick Morton

Photo credit: Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Genre: Fantasy/Adventure
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Tim Robbins, Kristen Steward, Josh Hutcherson, Jonah Bobo, Dax Shepard
RunTime: 1 hr 42 mins
Released By: Columbia TriStar
Rating: PG (Clean)

Opening Day: 24 November 2005 (DAY AND DATE WITH THE US RELEASE 23 NOV 2005)

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Based on the book by CHRIS VAN ALLSBURG

Zathura (n) (Za-Thoo-rah) is an intergalactic adventure for the entire family, centering on two squabbling brothers who discover a vintage board game that from the very first spin takes them on the ride of their lives through outer space – literally. The only way to end the game and return safely to Earth is by reaching an undiscovered black planet called Zathura. The boys are forced to put aside their sibling rivalry to survive an unending series of challenges including meteor showers, a laser-firing, rocket-propelled robot, heatseeking lizards called Zorgons, battling space ships and more.

Movie Review:

Giddy with imagination and flush with fresh, inviting visuals Zathura flies into theaters. It’s the new movie from Elf director Jon Favreau, who continues exploring the world of family entertainment with his take on evil, magic board games. His movie is based on the book Zathura, written by children’s author Chris Van Allsburg who also wrote the story that Jumanji was based on, which explains the similarities, though Zathura is not a Jumanji sequel.

Two quarrelling brothers go on a fantastic space adventure when young Danny finds a magic, old board game. As they nobly defend their spacecraft/home from human-eating Gorgons, robots programmed to kill and the wrath of an adolescent sister, simple lessons are taught about the importance of kindness, family and imagination.

Kids will probably be enthralled by the brothers' cosmic misadventures, which the filmmakers imaginatively realize in a seamless blend of CGI, miniatures and make-up effects, courtesy of Jurassic Park wizard Stan Winston. Favreau skillfully handles the film's action sequences with whiz-bang flair like a genre veteran. In fact, there are a couple of scenes in Zathura that may be a little too intense for younger children, such as the robot's relentless pursuit of the brothers through the house. But for the most part, the PG-rated family movie is no more violent or potentially upsetting than the average Saturday morning cartoon.

Most kids' movies these days are written with a healthy dose of adult irony to involve the ticket-buying parents. Zathura appeals to both the young and old, but not because of in-jokes that keep parents interested in the exploits of a chicken or a fish, but because of the genuine sense of wonder the film inspires. Zathura is a step back but one in the right direction. Like The Wizard of Oz once did, it has the potential to foster a love of film in a new generation.

Favreau’s film avoids the crass, cheap jokes that sometimes plague lesser family flicks in an attempt to create something truly timeless. His cast drives the movie, with great performances from child actors Jonah Bobo as the youngest and Josh Hutcherson as his 10-year-old brother Walter. Kristen Stewart players their oldest sibling Lisa, and though her role is relatively minor by comparison, the 15-year-old actress makes a big impression. Expect great things from her in the future. What works best is the dynamic between this family of characters. They fight, they bicker, their big sister is disinterested. The chemistry between them has an authentic feel, even if sometimes their reaction to what’s going on around them doesn’t.

Yet while it's occasionally exciting, and deftly holds the cheap sentiment at bay, Zathura cannot sustain its breathless momentum to the finale. Narrative fatigue sets in at about the halfway mark, as the brothers' ongoing rift becomes tiresome amidst the falling meteors and Zorgon attacks After awhile, you wish they'd draw a game card that orders them to take a "time out."

Zathura is a good film for the family, but especially for young boys. To be honest, part of the appeal of something like Zathura (and Jumanji, for that matter) is that even with all the peril danger and turmoil the game causes, we secretly with that we could open a box from our basement and enter into an adventure like this...

...at least I do.

Movie Rating:

(For an out of this world space adventure, strap yourself and eject your seat into the world of Zathura!)

Review by Lokman B S


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