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Zathura (****)
Directed by Jon Favreau
Written David Koepp and John Kamps, based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg
Principal Cast
Jonah Bobo -- Danny
Josh Hutcherson -- Walter
Dax Shepard -- Astronaut
Kristen Stewart -- Lisa
Tim Robbins -- Dad
Frank Oz -- Robot (voice)
John Alexander -- Robot
Derek Mears -- Lead Zorgon
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

David Koepp has written or co-written a lot of great movies, including Jurassic Park, and Spider-man. John Kamps has a less impressive resume -- he wrote The Borrowers and The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Chris Van Allsburg, in addition to Zathura, wrote the books Jumanji and The Polar Express.

While Zathura has no direct relationship with Jumanji, the two movies are very similar. In both, little kids play a magic game that draws them into perilous situations, as the game world takes over the real world. Zathura is Jumanji in outer space.

I loved Zathura. The use of telling details makes it easy for you to believe three impossible things before breakfast. The box that the old game comes in is foxed. The sound of the metal game as it is laid down on a hardwood floor is exactly right. That is the sound that the old Tom Corbett -- Space Academy toy made when you put it down on a hardwood floor. The illustrations in the game perfectly capture the style used in science fiction toys in the late 40s and early 50s.

I have a few quibbles. Based on its appearance, the game Zathura predates the invention of the word "astronaut" and predates the use of the word "program" in the sense of giving instructions to a computer, and yet game cards use both words.

Needless to say, the laws of physics are thrown out the window -- literally. When an object falls through the window of the house, it is no longer subject to gravity, but inside the house not only is there gravity and air, the gas stove still works. The logic behind the movie is game logic, but it still manages to convey a sense of reality, because we believe in the kids.

The kids act like real little kids. One thing many movies about small children get wrong is they make the children brave and resourceful beyond their years. Small children are easily frightened, often paralyzed by fear. Even the most unreal peril in the movie, the Zorgons, seem real, because the children react to them as if they are real. Excellent use of light and sound heightens the effect.

It may be a case of a movie far exceeding expectations, but I found Zathura an absolute delight.

Copyright © 2005 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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