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Overall Rating

Awesome: 10.53%
Worth A Look36.84%
Average: 27.63%
Pretty Bad: 19.74%
Total Crap: 5.26%

9 reviews, 22 user ratings

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by Scott Weinberg

"I'd love to own a house with this much space in it!"
4 stars

I had no reason to expect much of anything special from "Zathura." Based on a story by the author of "Jumanji," the movie seemed to be yet another trip to the well of familiarity. Story 1 had to do with a board game that brought the jungles alive amidst suburbia, while story 2 does the same thing, only with a space adventure instead of a magical safari hunt. But now I know not to underestimate the skills of actor-turned-director Jon Favreau. After seeing the strides made between "Made," "Elf," and now "Zathura," I'd go as far as calling Mr. Favreau a damn fine filmmaker -- and we knew him way back when he was the sweet chubby dude from "Rudy"!

Zathura opens with two young brothers battling for the attention of their good-natured, but hopelessly busy, father. Ball-tossing turns to bickering; bickering leads to a mild accident, and Dad has to head out to the office, none too thrilled with his hyperactive progeny. Dad leaves Danny and Walter under the attention of their disinterested big sister, and the boys settle in for yet another boring Saturday afternoon.

Yeah, right.

After a nasty trip to the basement, little Danny enters the living room bearing an antiquated old board game called Zathura ... a game that magically transports the entire house into the farthest reaches of outer space. Danny and Walter must complete the game before they can make it back to Earth, but first they'll have to contend with evil alien lizardmen, rampant asteroid attacks, homicidal robots, grabby gravitational fields, and a friendly astronaut who might not be all he appears to be.

Meanwhile, crabby big sis is up in the bathroom, frozen solid by a cryogenic attack.

Frankly, I cannot imagine the 12-year-old boy who will not be absolutely dazzled by the sci-fi spectacle that is Zathura. Director Favreau keeps the action coming fast and furious, and when the flick does slow down, it's laden with moments of high comedy, sweet sincerity, and an undeniable sense of gee-whiz fun. The screenplay, by David Koepp and John Kamps, is stocked with clever ideas, witty rejoinders, and sentimental material that (almost) never feels overdone or outright sappy.

Buoyed by the effortlessly likable young leads and a winning performance by Dax Shepard as "the astronaut," Zathura dances its way through a variety of exciting set pieces, witty character moments, and some special effects that'll have the young-at-heart muttering phrases like "coooooool," before settling down with a finale that's quietly satisfying and (thankfully!) bereft of goopy sentimentalism. Considerably more entertaining than it oughtta be, Zathura is one of this season's most surprising little treats. You'll take your 12-year-old to see it because you're a cool parent, and you'll be rewarded with a movie that's just as entertaining for grown-ups as it is for the wide-eyed preteens in your family.

So let's hear it for Jonny Favreau! Who would have believed that the lovably insecure lug from "Swingers" would prove to be such an astute filmmaker? Favreau takes the indie sensibility for which he's rightfully known, and infuses it (quite delightfully) into a big-budget spectacle that, in the hands of a more cynical director, would have been an eye-popping bore. If I were still 12 years old, "Zathura" would be my new favorite movie, and even at 12, I had very good taste in movies.

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originally posted: 11/11/05 18:58:17
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User Comments

3/17/20 dupadoit hi there 4 stars
9/24/14 Anees Shaik Not as great as Jumanji but, pretty good 4 stars
9/26/09 KayKay The second of the two worst movies of 2005 (the first is Son of The Mask) 1 stars
11/25/08 sweetgrrl1972 Too scary for kids, too stupid for adults and a bit with an incestuous crush in the middle 1 stars
9/03/08 Shaun Wallner Interesting Storyline 3 stars
8/13/07 Winger Disappointing. 10 years earlier they made a better movie called Jumanji. Good graphics tho. 3 stars
3/21/07 dude pretty bad 2 stars
3/06/07 Robin Hudspeth My kids loved it. Some very funny and exciting moments. 4 stars
8/24/06 AnnieG If you liked "Jumanji" - watch it again instead of getting this film. 2 stars
6/28/06 joe koski not as good as jumanji 4 stars
2/24/06 ES cool fx but a confusing ending, I had to have it explained to me and it still made no sense 4 stars
2/17/06 tatum It's ten times better than "Jumanji," a real treat 4 stars
12/14/05 Corinne entertaining, a great sequel to the first. Would see again without a doubt 4 stars
12/04/05 Haley F***in' DUH, WiseMan. It's by the same guy. And it's great stuff. :D 5 stars
11/30/05 Robert Quinn very fun film, if you liked jumanji, check it out! 4 stars
11/22/05 WiseMan JUMANJI RIP OFF!!!! 2 cups of salt 5 Cups of chicken and 6 cups of dog shit = Zathura 1 stars
11/21/05 Jeff Anderson A lot better than JUMANJI & a rare family film that's actually a lot of fun. I WAS HOOKED! 5 stars
11/18/05 Robert Braunfeld Great family movie to lose yourself in adventure 4 stars
11/17/05 PAG Not bad. Better than Jumanji. Not as good as Elf. 3 stars
11/13/05 Quigley the movie is as funny as it is visually stunning and clever. not jumanji, but very good 4 stars
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  11-Nov-2005 (PG)
  DVD: 14-Feb-2006

  03-Feb-2006 (PG)


Directed by
  Jon Favreau

Written by
  David Koepp
  John Kamps

  Tim Robbins
  Josh Hutcherson
  Jonah Bobo
  Dax Shepard
  Kristen Stewart
  Frank Oz

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