by Robyn Buckley
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was directed by Joe Johnston and was his first movie as a director. He previously worked as an Effects Artist and Art Director on films ranging from the original Star Wars trilogy to Willow. Post-Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Johnston directed movies like The Rocketeer, Jumanji, and Captain America: The First Avenger. He has a career that includes a number of my childhood favorites, and I am a fan of his work. The film was initially to be directed by Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, From Beyond), as he and Brian Yuzna were the ones to bring the story to Disney Studios. I would have liked to have seen his version. I don't know if it would have been more horror or stayed as kid-friendly as the final product, but it would have been interesting no matter which way it went.
The relationships within each of the families contrast nicely with one another. Wayne and Diane are dealing with a rough patch that has led to her spending time at her mother’s house and away from the family, but they are both on good terms with their children. Russ Sr. and Mae have a stable marriage, but Russ is unable to connect with either of his sons – he expects Russ Jr. to share his interests and he doesn’t have time to spend to bond with Ron. Amy and Nick have a healthy brother-sister relationship – he annoys her, but she has an almost maternal outlook in her interactions with him. I find this refreshing as the movie could easily have made Amy the bratty teenager who hates her little brother. Instead, she is always keeping a careful eye out for Nick and doesn’t try to bully him. Russ Jr. and Ron have the more typical movie sibling relationship – they frequently butt heads and Ron likes to antagonize his older brother.
The "shrunk" portion of the movie is the most exciting part. The sets and practical effects used to show how small the kids are in comparison to everything else is extremely well done and holds up well even today. I remember watching as a child and being convinced that sliding down a piece of grass like a slide, sleeping in a Lego block, or eating a building-sized cookie would be the greatest thing ever to happen. I was less enthused about the giant bees, ants, and scorpions. The journey across the yard is an adventure that was fascinating to watch as a kid and still entertaining as an adult.
The MVP for Honey, I Shrunk the Kids goes to my boy Rick Moranis. As if that choice was ever in doubt. The role of Wayne Szalinksi could be thankless -- the bumbling oaf of a father that is often seen in other media, -- but as with the sibling relationship, the movie subverts that trope. Wayne may have inadvertently shrunk the children, but he quickly figures out what has happened and is able to use his inventiveness to begin searching for them. Chevy Chase and John Candy were both considered for the part; I can picture how the movie would have been with either of them, but I am happy that Rick Moranis was the final choice as he brings a nerdy sweetness to Wayne that nobody else could have.
F This Movie Fest 7. I guarantee you'll enjoy yourself.
I can't wait to marathon and live tweet with everyone this Saturday!