Zathura (2005)


“A meteor shower! Take erasive action! TAKE ERASIVE ACTION!”

The Scoop: 2005 PG, directed by Jon Favreau and starring Jonah Bobo, Josh Hutcherson and Dax Shepard

Tagline: Adventure is waiting.

Summary Capsule: Kids get trapped in a board game that destroys their house. Gee, where have I heard THAT before?

Justin’s rating: I only wish Connect Four had this level of customer support

Justin’s review: Howdy! How are you doing today? Yeah? How’s the fam? Terrific. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to skip past all this small talk and cut to the chase.

If you heard about or saw Zathura, a loud voice in your head will be screaming, “Didn’t they already make this? Jujubees or something?” Well, yes, it was called Jumanji. You know, that 1995 film with zany Robin Williams that nobody watches anymore? That’s okay — this is a 2005 film with Dax Shepard that nobody watched when it was in theaters.

It’s not really a big coincidence that both movies are two sides of the same coin (geez, I gotta stop using tired phrases in this review). Both Jumanji and Zathura were based on books by Chris Van Allsburg, a man who apparently wanted to scare kids the heck away from ever touching a board game again. Looking around at the modern state of kids’ high tech entertainment, I’d say “Mission Accomplished” Chris!

Both films/books center around a pair of bickering kids who discover a mysterious board game in their home. Once started, the game comes to life around them, and cannot be stopped until the players reach the end. It’s also entirely possible for someone to be forever exiled or killed in the playing of the game, which is perfect nightmare fuel for your future kids: “You know Timmy, if you’re not careful, you could be lost in Gumdrop Pass… FOR ALL ETERNITY AHAHAHA!”

But while Jumanji was jungle-themed, Zathura takes a decided turn for outer space. Brothers Walter and Danny are stuck in their dad’s creepy huge house for a day to entertain themselves. Danny is the chirpy young kid with a lack of skills weighing him down, while Walter is the older one who’s just a bit too old for kids’ games. However, once Danny finds Zathura in the basement and begins to play — ensuring them a horrid fate among the stars — the duo enter into a sort of crash course therapy session in “Getting Along”. The board game is interesting in a retro ’50s fashion, and it’s cool that all the scifi stuff comes straight from that era, instead of our modern ideas of scifi.

Helmed by Jon Favreau (I’ve always wanted to say a movie is “helmed” by someone… so nautical), Zathura could best be described as “solid”. The special effects are more than you’d think — the house is floating in space, with meteor showers, killer robots and invading aliens galore — and the kids do an adequate job moving from point A to Zed. Yet something’s missing here, an element that would’ve moved this film past a critically-approved, but theater-deserted fad. Maybe a lack of a big name star might be against its favor, but I think it’s just not as funny, scary or incredible as it honestly should’ve been.

Anyway, it was a decent way to pass a couple hours, and I’m always for kids’ movies that stray off the beaten path (Justin, STOP doing that!) for a little trip through some creepy adult writer’s imagination.

“I don’t know… he said something about 1.21 jigawatts and then sped out of here!”


  • Um… stuff can’t burn in vacuum… Then again, what’s making that house air-tight?
  • Robots with saw blades: never friendly
  • Originally conceived as a direct sequel to Jumanji. The visual effects supervisor on that film, Ken Ralston, was lined up to direct before Columbia abandoned the project in favor of adapting Zathura.
  • While the film was being made, Jonah Bobo (Danny) lost four teeth, so the filmmakers made ‘flippers’ or fake teeth that he wore, since the movie takes place in only a day.

Groovy Quotes

    • Danny: Zorgons are the lizardmen. They eat meat and we are MEAT!

Danny: A meteor shower! Take erasive action! TAKE ERASIVE ACTION!

Lisa: You actually set the house on fire!

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Jumanji
  • Iron Giant
  • Little Monsters

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