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Zathura Movie Poster

Zathura

Genre: Adventure / Fantasy
Rated:
PG
Directed by
: Jon Favreau
Starring: Josh Hutcherson, Jonah Bobo, Dax Shepard, Kristen Stewart, Tim Robbins
Released by: Sony Pictures

In Short: The big-screen adaptation of Chris Van Allsberg's classic children's book is a winning experience for every age.

A New Family Classic
An Eye-Popping Adventure for All

By Jenny Peters

It's rare that a movie made for kids is satisfying for grown-ups as well. That's why "Zathura" is such a delight. This film adaptation of Chris Van Allsberg's children's book—he's also the author of "Jumanji" and "The Polar Express"—begins in a big old house where a divorced dad (Tim Robbins) and his three kids, Walter, Danny, and Lisa, are struggling to keep it together as a fractured family. Walter can't stand his little brother Danny, and in scenes that ring completely true for anyone who has siblings, the boys (ages 10 and 6) are constantly at war. That’s until Danny finds Zathura, a mysterious old game hidden in the basement.

Once he sets the game in motion, the film soars magically—and literally, as their house takes off for outer space—and the incredible adventures begin. As each turn of the game progresses, a card warns the boys of the next challenge, from a giant robot malfunction to the attack of a gang of scary, heat-seeking aliens. Their older sister, along for the ride since she was sleeping in the upstairs of the house, brings comic relief to the intense excitement of the action sequences, and when an astronaut (Dax Shephard) turns up to help them out with their attempts to get themselves and their house back down to Earth, she even adds a little romance to the mix. That turns out to be an even funnier riff than her earlier moments as the typical teenager disgusted with her younger siblings; actress Kristen Stewart pulls off all her moods with aplomb.

The rapid-fire action is expertly managed by actor-turned-director Jon Favreau, whose film "Elf" succeeded in a similar way to "Zathura." Both are movies that entertain young and old without sacrificing the experience for either. Most importantly, "Zathura" has an underlying theme of the importance of family, offered up in a way that isn't cloying or corny. It's a movie to pack up the minivan and take the family to the multiplex, although parents be warned: it is rated PG because there are some scary moments peppered throughout. But if your kids are old enough to handle the flying monkeys in "The Wizard of Oz," they are old enough to experience "Zathura."



P111105
(Updated: 01/23/08 NJ)

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