In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_split_ver3

Split

It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Festivals & Awards Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

  |  

I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what’s missing in “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.” The special effects are all there, nicely in place, and the production values are sound, but the movie is dead in the water. It tells an amazing and preposterous story, and it seems bored by it. It uses the same sorts of visual effects we remember from “The Incredible Shrinking Man,” but it lacks the same sense of fun.

Advertisement

The movie stars Rick Moranis as a suburban father who labors far into the night over a strange invention up in the attic. It’s an “electromagnetic shrinking machine,” which can, and does, reduce four of the neighborhood kids to microscopic size. They’re smaller than ants and get swept up and thrown out with the trash - setting up the central adventure of the movie, in which they try to survive in a backyard that has suddenly turned into a fearsome jungle.

The special effects used for these scenes are inventive and first-rate; we see blades of grass that tower over the tiny kids, a cigarette butt that looks like a glowing slag heap and an ant so big that all four kids can ride on it. Two of the kids hold on for dear life during a crazy flight on the back of a bumble bee, which leaves them covered with pollen the size of softballs. When the sprinkler is turned on, the yard explodes into a treacherous mud swamp, and when a lawn mover gets loose, it sets up a terrifying vortex. And there’s a battle between an ant and another creature (a miniature scorpion, I guess, that reminded me a little of the battle of the monsters in “King Kong”).

The technical expertise is there. But the story surrounding it is thin, slow and lacking in inspiration. When the four neighborhood children disappear, the parents next door react in a kind of slow-motion daze. Meanwhile, Moranis realizes what has happened and starts searching the backyard, suspending himself in a harness and circling over the grass with a magnifying glass and searchlights. This should have been funny, but it’s not, and we see the same process again and again.

Advertisement

All of the performances in the movie seem a little unfocused, as if the actors got exhausted waiting for the special effects and forgot their original inspiration. There should be chemistry among the four kids, but instead there are simply routine line readings. Moranis and his wife (Marcia Strassman) and the neighbors (Matt Frewer and Kristine Sutherland) are given so few recognizable emotions that they seem less involved in the story than the audience. And the pacing is slow. A whiz-bang, gee-whiz approach to the material might have helped.

The closing scenes are an example of the low energy level. One of the kids is about to be accidentally devoured in a spoonful of Cheerios. This scene could have been milked for suspense and malicious glee. Instead, it unfolds with lead-footed predictability. And James Horner’s music, here and elsewhere in the film, is no help. It sounds surprisingly familiar and seems to be a retread of the Nino Rota score for Fellini's “Amarcord.” In the Fellini movie, it worked.

Note: The movie is preceded by “Tummy Trouble,” a color cartoon featuring Roger Rabbit. The good parts are a reminder of the best things in the cartoon that began “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” But there are not that many good parts. Still, it was fun to see a color cartoon before the feature, and the kids cheered.

Advertisement

Popular Blog Posts

Films to Get Us Through The Trump Presidency

Chaz Ebert highlights films with the potential to get us through the confusing political times of the Trump presidenc...

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

The Audacious "Something Wild" Comes to Criterion Blu-ray

One of the most audacious American films from the 1960s is now available via the Criterion Collection.

Netflix's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" an Unfunny Parody of Sadness

A review of Netflix's new series, Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events," which premieres January 13.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus