When a mysterious game is found in the basement of their home, brothers Walter and Danny get more than they bargained for as they begin to play it. Much like the well know Jumanji* movie starring Robin Williams, this title is a live action adventure where the game comes to life and each move made on the game board turns out to be a dangerous surprise. Even though the squabbling brothers have a hard time concentrating on the game between their fights, they know the only way to stop the madness and return everything back to normal is to finish the game.

Even though the storyline was not very original, it was very entertaining. The sci-fi aspect of their space adventure was akin to what one might experience in a video game and that helps to make this movie more appealing to its young audience. Also a big plus for this film are the young actors who are quite convincing in their sibling rivalry, which is an underlying theme throughout the movie.

Jonah Bobo gives a great performance as younger brother Danny who, for all he knows how, cannot get into the good graces of older brother Walter (played by Josh Hutcherson). Playing the game Zathura was his attempt to get his brother, who either ignores him or picks on him, to at least play with him. Older brother Walter blames their parent’s divorce on the birth of his little brother. After all, everything was fine until he was born. Walter is inadvertently brought into the game and throughout their entire adventure can barely contain his irritation with his younger brother. Big sister Lisa played by Kristen Stewart makes her presence known as only a big sister can.

There are a few surprises in Zathura but perhaps the best surprise of all is when both brothers realize the importance of their sibling bond. Danny finally understands that his brother really does care about him and Walter figures out that his little brother is just a kid who needs him. He fells obligated to be a good big brother which means he can’t keep blaming him for what happened with their parents. Also, if Walter allows himself to admit it, he needs his little brother, too.

The movie is rated PG for fantasy action and danger and could prove to be too intense for very young viewers. However, keeping the parental guidance in mind, it’s a great pick for a family movie. It’s packed with action, adventure and fantasy but still manages to include a family good message.

*Both Jumanji and Zathura were movies based on books of the same title written by Chris Van Allsburg

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