Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989) – Joe Johnston

Before Joe Johnston directed one of my favourite comic book movies, The Rocketeer, he directed this Disney film that took the b-movies of the 1950s into the late Disney-fied 80s. There are nods to films he hasn’t made yet (which is really fun) and dialogue lifts from classic films and a playful sense of fun.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is the next recommendation following my screening of Toy Story for the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book.

Marrying some great practical effects with some iffy blue-screen work the story is fun and predictable as the children of inventor Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis) are accidentally shrunk by one of his inventions.

Amy (Amy O’Neill), her brother, Nick (Robert Oliveri)  and their neighbours, Ron (Jared Rushton) and his big brother, Russ (Thomas Wilson Brown) find themselves on the adventure of a lifetime in their own backyard.

The film features some great character actors in supporting roles, Matt Frewer (!!)and Kristine Sutherland (Buffy’s mom!) as Russ and Ron’s parents, Marcia Strassman (Mrs. Kotter!) as Mrs. Diane Szalinski.

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There are not so subtle hints that the relationship between Diane and Wayne is a little strained, but all of that takes a back seat to Wayne trying to discover the location of the children as they traverse the treacherous backyard – a yard filled with insects, plants, lost toys, and a sprinkler!

Playing as much as an homage to the 50s b-movie atomic sci-fi films as it does as a family comedy, this one entertains. While Moranis, is mainly responsible for any of the film’s comedic elements, the children’s adventure is fairly dramatic, well-paced, and enjoyable, with nods to Harryhausen and the joyous big screen adventures of the film maker’s youth. There is a sense of exploration to the film that could, conceivably, make kids reexamine their play areas and see a whole new venue of adventure.

While some of the effects haven’t aged as well as some, the matte paintings and practical effects do a nice job of bringing the world to life.

Despite getting top billing, Moranis is almost side-lined by the kids’ adventure, and we are only given goofy glimpses of him prowling the yard for the shrunken children. And there is no real exploration of the troubled marriage or its resolution. It’s such a glossed over subplot that perhaps it should have been dropped completely.

Meanwhile, the kids learn to rely on themselves, communicate, understand, and get along with one another, while the two teens have a Russ and Amy have a blossoming romance. In effect making their tale a bit of a coming of age story.

This was a fun one, and is till bound to entertain families and viewers of all ages… but we didn’t need the sequels.

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