Thursday, April 4, 2013

Movie Review: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Imaginative and funny story
Cons: Some dated elements, weak DVD release
The Bottom Line:
Get shrunk down to size
Comedy and effects mix well
With great characters




"EARTHQUAKE!"  "No Worse.  LAWNMOWER!!!!!!"

The first time I saw Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, I was captivated. I thought the special effects were great, and the story engaged my imagination. Every few years, I pull it out and watch it again. Fortunately, it always lives up to my expectations.

Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis) is an inventor. His latest invention is a shrink ray. He's got a big presentation on it this particular morning, so he's up in the attic trying to get it to actually, you know, shrink something. But all it seems to do is make the apples he is experimenting on explode. The stress has taken its toll on the family. Wife Diane (Marcia Strassman) spent last night with her parents. Kids Amy (Amy O'Neal) and Nick (Robert Oliveri) are just hoping all the madness will end soon.

Next door, the Thompson family is getting ready for a fishing trip. Older son Russ (Thomas Wilson Brown) isn't excited about going, much to his father's (Matt Frewer) dismay. Younger son Ron (Jared Rushton) is more a chip off the old block, when he isn't inventing giant traps. And wife Mae (Kristine Sutherland) is just trying to hold the family together.

Then Ron hits his baseball through the Szalinski attic window. The ball bounces around, turning on the machine. With no parents around, the four kids attempt to retrieve the ball, only to get shrunk down to a quarter inch in size. To make matters worse, they are accidentally thrown out with the trash. While their parents try to figure out why they vanished, the kids will have to travel through the Szalinski backyard fighting giant insects, hurricane sprinklers, and lawnmowers. Can they make it?

Okay, let's start with the bad. The movie came out in 1989 and is obviously dated. The clothes, styles, and music are definitely late 80's. While most of the special effects are awesome, the insects aren't that great. They used stop motion animation and giant puppets to create them. While state of the art back in the day, computer animation has done much to make them obsolete now. Still, they get the job done.

So let's move on to what works, which is everything else. Yes, elements of the story are predictable. The outcome of the movie is never in question. The only question is, what will everyone face next? Here's where the movie really excels. If I'd been writing the movie, the kids would have made it back with no problems or detours. Instead, they face all kinds of obstacles. And Wayne's inventions as well as the contraptions he builds to find the kids are absolutely hysterical.

Not only are there plenty of sight gags, but there are wonderfully witty lines. I have some of the exchanges memorized they are so funny. I still laugh at the scene where Wayne tells Diane what happened to the kids, for example.

The characters are well drawn. Yes, the fathers are stereotypical on the surface, but they are given more personality as the movie progresses. The moms are wonderful, and the kids show plenty of personality over the course of the movie as well. Heck, any movie that can make me feel for an ant must be doing something right in the character department.

Naturally, the actors do a great job bringing these characters to life. There isn't one bad performance or moment here, and considering all the special effects, that is saying something.

Now earlier, I commented on the poor animatronics. That's the only flaw in the effects. Naturally, much of the movie takes place on sets that make the kids look small. But there are several shots that show the kids and adults at the same time, and I believe every one of them. And I still want to know how they created the giant water drops that threaten the kids near the middle.

Unfortunately, the DVD is a bare bones release. And I do mean bare bones. When this was shown in theaters, it was shown with a Roger Rabbit cartoon. Even that is missing. Frankly, I don't mind that since I didn't care for the cartoon to begin with. More disappointing is the full frame picture. It looks great, but I'd love to see it in the original wide screen. The surround sound is impressive. I know at least one making of featurette was made since it was shown on the Disney Channel when the film was first released. It isn't here, unfortunately.

While the DVD could be better, this is a fun, imaginative film. If you are looking for a film that will entertain the entire family, no matter their size, look no further then Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

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