Zathura (2005)

Genres - Children's/Family, Fantasy  |   Sub-Genres - Children's Fantasy, Space Adventure  |   Release Date - Nov 11, 2005 (USA)  |   Run Time - 101 min.  |   Countries - USA  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Channeling the awe and splendor of Spielberg's early Amblin films, Jon Favreau splendidly expands Chris Van Allsburg's children's tale into a timeless adventure that the whole family can enjoy. More joyful than Jumanji, while less roller-coaster freakish than Polar Express, this adaptation nails the wonderment that both previous films missed out on, while still delivering the thrills and spills that are integral to pulpy space operas. Lizard monsters and '50s-era rockets populate this fantastical world, but the visuals would not be complete if not for the small, tight cast that holds it together. Jonah Bobo is downright adorable as wide-eyed youngest brother Danny, while Dax Shepard has a subtle charm that makes him immediately likable throughout. For his third feature, Favreau proves that he can pull off extravagant action scenes while still keeping the heart of the story intact. The director's humor shines through in various superb ways -- the best being his gleeful approach to demolishing J. Michael Riva's glorious set inch by inch. Despite its lackluster box office and a "believe it or not" reveal in the third act, Zathura taps into an imaginative world that is as wildly charming as it is exciting -- a rare feat for live-action kids' flicks in this day and age.