Chris Van Allburg is a wildly imaginative illustrator, but he doesn't usually provide the kind of cogent, sustained narrative a feature-length film requires. The bloated Robin Williams star vehicle, Jumanji, made few happy, and the recent Polar Express was both flat and dumb.
Zathura is the third Van Allsburg book to make it to the screen, and by a wide margin the best. Lila, 9, says, "I like the whole idea of being able to go to outer space and back just by playing a board game. I think it's really cool." Why not? Screenwriter David Koepp (who wrote the great art house flick Apartment Zero) and director Jon Favreau have the sense to let the coolness fly, and fly it does. House in outer space, robot, Zorgons, astronaut... it's just one thing after another.
Is there a message between explosions, Lila? "Respect everybody, particularly your family, I guess." Whatever. There is a little story about brothers getting along, but it's incidental to the coolness.
"It would be scary for little kids," Lila warns. "The Zorgons are kind of creepy." Oscar (3) and Iris (6) did climb under their chairs a couple of times, but not in a nightmares-for-a-week kind of way. Lila also points out, "There are two bad words, 'dick' and the other thing." That's a reference to my carping about one word that seems horribly, tastelessly out-of-place, as if some 26-year-old producer insisted that it would be funny if the 10-year-old said it. It isn't.
Aside from that one off note, though, we all found Zathura to be a real gone groovy good time.
Zathura (PG) is playing at Brockport Strand, Canandaigua Theatres, Culver Ridge 16, Eastview 13, Geneseo Theatres, Greece Ridge 12, Henrietta 18, Pittsford Cinema, and Tinseltown.
--- Adam Wilcox
I miss my babies. It seems like they were just here, then I turned around and they were gone. Our littlest one will soon turn 6. Our oldest is now 14.
When I was younger, I imagined that somehow I could go back to my teenage years. I have also had the odd notion that I could somehow go back to the times when my children were babies. That will never be. We are truly saying goodbye to those years.
Yet while I mourn the baby years, I am surprised at my tender feelings toward my new 14-year-old. As my daughter turned 5, then 8, then 10, I could remember being those ages. But now, as she blossoms into an adolescent, I realize that the age difference between us is shrinking. Her 14-year-old mind and spirit is, in some ways, not that distant from my 43-year-old mind and spirit. I am surprised and touched by this dawning realization.
At the other end of the spectrum, I am lucky enough to still have my parents. As my mom turned 70 this summer, I was surprised by my newfound feelings of tenderness toward her as I contemplated what life might look like from her vantage point.
While I can remember 14, I don't know very much about 70. I can almost put myself in my daughter's shoes, and I also try to put on my mom's shoes. Of course neither pair fits, but I'm really glad they're there.
--- Lynn Malooly