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USA 2005
Directed by
Jon Favreau
113 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bruce Paterson
2.5 stars

Zathura: A Space Adventure

Synopsis: Two squabbling brothers are propelled into deep space while playing the mysterious board game, Zathura. On their fantastic journey, they are joined by a stranded astronaut and must survive meteor showers, hostile lizard aliens, a rocket-propelled robot run amok and an intergalactic spaceship battle. But beyond these lies an even greater peril.

Zathura is based on the best-selling book by children's writer, Chris Van Allsburg. Allsburg’s 'The Polar Express' and 'Jumanji' have also been adapted for film. Like Jumanji, Zathura is a fantasy adventure where children playing a board game find reality distorting around them to create the world of the game.

Deep space provides a superior fantasy landscape compared to Jumanji’s jungle environment. The film has an imaginative retro Flash Gordonesque aesthetic that somewhat reflects Allsburg’s illustrative style, if not its chromatic restraint. With good performances from Tim Robbins and the boys, Jonah Bobo and Josh Hutcherson, the film has an inoffensive charm. The story centres on the evolving relationship of the brothers, as the battle for survival needed to win the game overcomes their day-to-day squabbles. Which is good, because squabbling kids get annoying, fast. Dax Shepard and Lisa Stewart as the Astronaut and older sister provide some welcome relief from the onslaught of the youngsters, as well as a nifty plot-twist.

It’s said that Robert Rodriguez consulted his kids on what they wanted in a film before he made the Spy Kids films. Likewise, Zathura has a sense of the kind of action in its set pieces that kids probably like. And I like it too. But it also has a contrived way of presenting and resolving interpersonal relationships between the family members that is an overt morality-lesson typical of too many kids’ movies. But that’s cool, coz I suspect us kids (at heart) will be able to mostly ignore the preaching and enjoy the adventure.




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