J. & C.'s Movie Reviews

Our Notes on Movies Made Public

Zathura

Posted by J on September 1, 2007

If we were ten-year old boys, we’d be enthralled with Zathura. In fact, this movie reminds us of clever but forgettable fantasy movies in the 1980s that we still remember fondly. Zathura is a mix of so many movie scripts that came before it that anybody who is on an originality hunt should look elsewhere. See if this plot sounds familiar: two young boys are bored in a big house. In the creepy basement they find a space-adventure boardgame that takes them on amazing adventures. The boys argue a lot, in part because their parents are divorced. But along the way, they reconcile and learn to become brothers and friends.

So Zathura is terribly derivative, but it is amazingly well executed. The DVD cover compares this movie to Jumanji, which is a bad comparison because we would be more entertained by a 3 A.M. lecture on C-SPAN than by Jumanji. What Zathura does perfectly, in our humble opinion, is to make the action exciting by confining it in a familiar location. The boys roam around a large, old house, and when they make it into space, their house is basically the spaceship. The action does not leave that vantagepoint, which actually gives the movie a homely feel. Of course there have to be aliens and robots and black holes, but these all come to the boys via the playing of the game; in a worse movie, the boys would be whisked off to other worlds and would visit the aliens and robots. Those who are fond of big, old houses will instantly find a sentimental attachment to this movie. Who hasn’t been bored at home, just like these boys are, even though you may have TV and video games readily available?

The dilemma is how to watch this movie. You cannot ask any questions about things that happen in the plot because that will ruin the way you are supposed to watch it: that is, with wonder and anticipation. Further, we don’t know if ten year old boys should be watching Zathura. While lessons may be learned by seeing the boys transform from bickering enemies to good friends, young watchers might pick up a few new colorful terms from the boys. We counted four such words in total, though there are more, which is entirely too bad. But Zathura is a lot of fun for viewers whose brains are nearly fried after a long hard week of work and thinking. For us, watching it wasn’t too much different from reading adventure stories. It was just too bad that it lasted only an hour and a half.

Entertainment: 9
Intelligence: 3
Morality: (everything okay except a few choice words spoken by kid actors)

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4 Responses to “Zathura”

  1. Joel said

    Wow, I was really surprised by your review. I remember when this movie was released. I had a very negative impression and had absolutely no interest in ever viewing it. I really knew nothing about the movie except that reviews and the trailers compared it to Jumanji. I don’t remember exactly what I saw or heard but somehow I assumed that Robin Williams was one of the principle actors. I have rather strong reactions to particular actors despite the other potential merits of a movie. I will tend to eliminate movies from consideration just because I can’t separate an actors body of work from an individual piece. After reading your review I looked up the credits and to my surprise Robin Williams was not involved. Maybe we will give it try in the near future.

    It might strike some as unfair that I would recoil at the idea of seeing Robin Williams. It is not as if Tim Robbins is a saint though he is a much better actor. My problem is that some actors can leave a strong impression in a particular role that I can’t shake from my mind while watching other movies.

  2. J. and C. Matthews said

    Hey, no problem. We also recoil at seeing Robin Williams. Thankfully he didn’t show up, and actually this movie cast its actors well. The guy who plays the astronaut is surprisingly good, and Tim Robbins is only around for five minutes or so.

    We were surprised by what we saw too. I had never heard of it, but the initial reviews of Zathura were really great.

  3. […] charming and delightful.  This movie was directed by Jon Favreau, who shocked us with the likeable Zathura. Elf has, at times, a similar sense of wonder as Zathura does, but it doesn’t sustain that […]

  4. […] that amazed by it, even though it tries it’s darnedest to amaze with special effects.  Zathura is director Jon Favreau’s better movie.  If you need an entertainment fix, go rent that […]

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