2005 Running time: 113 Certificate: pg Rating: 3

Synopsis

Jumanji in outer space! A tinny old board game blasts two squabbling brothers and their house to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. Their only chance of getting back to Earth is by finishing the game, but that means playing together - and by the rules. A family odyssey which mostly climbs the ladders of fun and rarely slides down the snake of sentimentality.

Director

  • Jon Favreau

Cast

  • Josh Hutcherson

  • Jonah Bobo

  • Dax Shepard

  • Kristen Stewart

  • Tim Robbins

Review

The third of Chris Van Allsberg's storybooks (which also include The Polar Express) to make it to the big screen comes ten years after the first (Jumanji) and borrows the same basic premise – two kids and a board game gone bonkers.

Six-year-old Danny (Bobo) can't win. Unlike his older brother Walter (Hutcherson), he's no good at sports. And when they're not vying for the attention of their divorced dad (Robbins), they're making life miserable for one another.

So when Danny comes across a dusty board game in the basement, he has to play by himself - until a meteor shower wrecks their living room. And there’s an asteroid belt where the front garden used to be.

Walter realises that he's going to have to join in, but every move around the board seems to make their situation worse.

When they try to tell their teenage sister Lisa (Panic Room's Kristen Stewart) what's happening, they accidentally freeze her in the bathroom.

Then a haywire robot tries to kill them, they almost spin into a fiery planet, and the house is practically reduced to splinters by alien spaceships.

Luckily they rescue an astronaut (Zak Shepherd) who helps them fight off the marauding Zorgons (the meat-eating space lizards outside) - once he's eaten all their food.

But whether they get home safely or not depends on cutting out the sibling rivalry and putting in some teamwork. Either that or they disappear down a black hole.

For all its 21st century effects, Zathura feels like a childrens' movie from the 70s, back when board games weren't considered 'lame'.

But despite its old-fashioned charm, this is still a product of modern Hollywood and duly hammers home its message of brotherly love with a lot of noise.

The Zorgons could have been a bit more menacing too. They lurk and hiss but director Favreau (Elf) doesn't risk his PG rating by having them do anything scary or despicable.

Kidstuff it is, but the over-18s do get the odd turn. "I like Mom's house better," gripes Walter. "So did she - and now it's hers," says Dad. That's got to be worth another throw.

Elliott Noble