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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

(Photo by Merrick Morton, ©2005 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All rights reserved.)

COME ON, LET'S PLAY THIS GAME I JUST FOUND: Danny (Jonah Bobo) wheedles his older brother into playing a new board game he found in their father's basement, not realizing that by playing the game they will be in for the experience of their young lives.

Zathura: Thrill-a-Minute Sequel to "Jumanji" Actually Improves on Original

Movie Review by Kam Williams

In 1995, Jumanji, a book about a couple of children who find a magical board game which comes to life, was made into a movie by Academy Award-winner Joe Johnston (for Raiders of the Lost Ark's visual effects). The film was based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg, that had won the Caldecott Medal, which is awarded annually to the best illustrated children's book.

The movie made over $100 million at the box office and launched the career of Kirsten Dunst, however, it wasn't until 2002 that Allsburg wrote Zathura, a sequel to Jumanji. Zathura has now been adapted by Hollywood.

With this film, actor/director Jon Favreau proves that his previous hit, Elf, was no fluke. He has produced a spellbinding, thrill-a-minute roller coaster ride guaranteed to enthrall young and old alike.

As the movie opens, we find Danny, 6 (Jonah Bobo), and Walter, 10 (Josh Hutcherson), competing for the attention and approval of their recently-divorced father (Tim Robbins) during a weekend visit. Their father resolves the problem by perfunctorily devoting precisely the same amount of playtime to each of his sons.

He then excuses himself to attend to a job-related obligation, and asks his daughter Lisa (Kristen Stewart) to babysit. This is equivalent to leaving the boys home alone, because they detest their big sister.

Lisa goes upstairs to listen to music in her bedroom, and bored Walter grudgingly agrees to play Zathura, the dusty board game which Danny has just found on a shelf in the basement. The game's futuristic board features a thirties Art Deco design, ala Buck Rogers.

They discover that their initial spin sets in motion a sequence of events which can only be resolved by completing the game. The pair plunge into a heart-stopping series of nightmares when they look out the window and discover that the house is no longer on Earth, but hurtling through outer space.

Each card the boys draw dictates what peril will next befall them; such as a meteor shower, alien life forms, robots, gravity fields, black holes, a stranded astronaut, or some other inter-galactic crisis. Lisa is conveniently put to sleep in a cryogenic chamber (at least for five moves) and it is up to the brothers to figure out how to survive by their wits.

Although the plot is primarily action oriented, Zathura devotes sufficient attention to character development along the way and there won't be a dry eye in the house after a satisfying twist which delivers a big lesson about the true meaning of brotherly love.

An almost perfect family movie that is spoiled by the use of a couple of unnecessary curse words.

Excellent (4 stars). Rated PG for mature themes, sensuality, action fantasy, frightening images, peril, and profanity. Running time: 113 minutes. Studio: Columbia Pictures.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.



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