Zathura Jon Favreau

Zathura Jon Favreau
Most kids' movies these days are written with a healthy dose of adult irony to involve the ticket-buying parents. Zathura appeals to both the young and old, but not because of in-jokes that keep parents interested in the exploits of a chicken or a fish, but because of the genuine sense of wonder the film inspires. Zathura is a step back but one in the right direction. Like The Wizard of Oz once did, it has the potential to foster a love of film in a new generation.

Two quarrelling brothers go on a fantastic space adventure when young Danny finds a magic, old board game. As they nobly defend their spacecraft/home from human-eating Gorgons, robots programmed to kill and the wrath of an adolescent sister, simple lessons are taught about the importance of kindness, family and imagination.

The film relies on character development and strong imagery instead of wild special effects of the Spy Kids variety. Based on the classic children's book by author Chris Van Allsburg (The Polar Express, Jumanji), this is director Jon Favreau's best film. What pushes Zathura into classic territory are the performances of the young lead actors. Josh Hutcherson is cute but not too sugary, garnering perfect pathos with a set of dignified brown eyes.

The big clunky robot that attacks the children is a massive hunk of metal, with a '50s aesthetic that will satisfy parents who'll subconsciously think, "now that's what a robot is supposed to look like." Those slick assholes from I, Robot have no place in Van Allsburg's ode to the wonder of young imagination. (Sony)