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Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Retro Review: Honey, I Shrunk The Kids (1989)

Honey, I Shrunk The Kids
1989
Cast: Rick Moranis, Marcia Strassman, Amy O' Neil, Matt Frewer, Kristine Sutherland
Genre: Science Fiction Comedy Adventure
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $222 million

Plot: The scientist father of a teenage girl and boy accidentally shrinks his and two neighbourhood teens to the size of insects. Now the teens must fight diminutive dangers as the father searches for them






'The Goonies Meets The Ant Bully Meets Antz Meets Flubber'

Before Marvel Studios' Ant-Man movies, there was Honey, I Shrunk The Kids and years before Disney lost their mojo, as these days they focus more on plugging star names and franchises and place more emphasis on their animation department, in the likes of Flubber, 101 Dalmatians, Freaky Friday, The Mighty Ducks, Enchanted, Cool Runnings and Jungle 2 Jungle, during the 1960s to up until the early to late 2000s, the company used to branch out towards live-action based flicks, particularly those of the fantasy variety. Some were good, some were not bad and others were rather terrible. 

Honey, I Shrunk The Kids is a Disney film wherein the cast and characters play second fiddle to the special effects that given it is one of the numbers of movies of theirs to be given the reboot, hopefully with more established names, this would give it a further boost. Because in watching this version from 1989, it was.... not bad, but the performances left me wanting more. 

With additional help from Silver Screen Partners III, whose production credits include fellow '80s classics, Cocktail, Oliver and Company, Good Morning, Vietnam and Adventures in Babysitting, the film sees Canadian- born comedian and comic actor, Rick Moranis of Ghostbusters as Wayne Szalinski: an absent-minded inventor and father of 2 kids, Amy and Nick on the verge of perfecting a device that can shrink all manner of objects. When he accidentally and inadvertently shrinks and zaps them and two other kids, the Thompson brothers, down to size with a ray gun. As Wayne and his wife go in search of them, the kids themselves have to navigate their way around their new and unfamiliar environment that includes insects, lawnmowers, whilst trying to find a way to get Wayne to revert them back to their normal size.  

The Thomson kids father reminds me of a cross between Christopher Lloyd and Frasier's David Hyde Pierce, in a weirdish sort of way and whilst Disney may have reinvented the '60s wheel for the 1990s crowd, they tried their hand at this, 7 years later with Flubber. Though I found that film a tad more entertaining than with this one. The performances as a whole range from okay to good (with the recognisable Jared Ashton, formerly of Tom Hanks & Penny Marshall's, Big) and the young characters, whilst thankfully they are not irritating, are very dull. Characterisation-wise, it was lacking across the board and there wasn't anything distinctive and interesting about any of them. The headliner, Rick Moranis bodes well as the nerdy dad and is well-suited, and whilst the adventure unfolds at every turn, but for one scene where an ant dies, I just wasn't truly amazed or blown away by this film. I expected it to wow me through the story, as much as I am by the visuals. The comedy also isn't side-splitting, but it is occasionally light and mild that will put a smile on a few faces.

Yet being a former art director and visual effects illustrator, Joe Johnston (Raiders of the Lost Ark) brings out that imagination, creativity and those effects to life and uses his experience in those fields to carve out a visually impressive looking movie, which he later replicated in his next major hit, Jumanji, 6 years later. Stop- motion effects in movies such as Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, Hook, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and so many pre-mid 1990s films are what I miss most in and for me, I'd still take it over CGI. 

The meticulous attention to detail is something to marvel at. Released during the last year of the 1980s and in amidst of other notable summer blockbusters, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, Ghostbusters II, When Harry Met Sally, Tim Burton's Batman and Lethal Weapon 2, it was a landmark achievement in visual effects, which arguably hadn't really been achieved on the live-action front, before. Unless you count Who Framed Roger Rabbit? - although that film combined both live action and 2D animation. 

Honey, I Shrunk The Kids also made history as by 1989, it became the highest grossing live-action Disney film and its success paved the way for others to follow suit.

It is a bit of The Goonies, The Ant Bully, Antz, with a bit of Flubber, even though, but for the former, those movies came out right after this one, yet I could sense those elements in these movies as I watched this. It has a few tiny moments, and whilst it remains a core family film, there is a feeling that it has its roots in horror, and it shows: the kids running away from living insects, being attacked by them and trying to survive, the scene with Nick almost drowning in a pool of milk & cereal in a bowl & his dad who is about to take a bite, not realising what he is doing, until the very last minute. 





Final Verdict:

It will entertain the kids and keep them amused in places, but it is the special effects & huge movie setpieces that elevate what is otherwise a rather average movie, in a sense. Does it still hold up today? Yes, and the effects haven't aged one bit, though I do wish it offered a tad more.

But for the Ant-Man movies, Honey I Shrunk The Kids is the type of film with a high-end concept that I cannot see it working today, whether in remake form or otherwise, in a non-comic book based effort. Though it does feel undemanding, this is still a solid and overly decent watch. 


Overall:



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