Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 1 hr. 33 min.

Release Date: June 23rd, 1989 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Joe Johnston Actors: Rick Moranis, Matt Frewer, Marcia Strassman, Kristine Sutherland, Thomas Brown, Jared Rushton, Amy O’Neill, Robert Oliveri

 


 

J

oe Johnston’s track record with fun movies is solid, with his filmography including such greats as “The Rocketeer,” “Jumanji,” and “October Sky” (he previously started his moviemaking career as an art director and effects designer for the original “Star Wars” trilogy). But his directing stint began in 1989 with “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” a witty, adventurous take on science-fiction gone awry, with family-friendly appeal and larger-than-life concepts. Though the special effects have aged, the oversized sets and camera tricks never hamper the suspension of disbelief. And the excitement hasn’t diminished, the goofiness is still pleasantly appropriate, and the line “Honey, I shrunk the…” will forever be a recognizable bit of contemporary vernacular.

Wayne Szalinski’s (Rick Moranis, who provides a nonstop source of slapstick and goofy expressions) harebrained inventions are putting a strain on his relationship with his kids, wife, and neighbors. His children Amy (Amy O’Neill) and Nick (Robert Oliveri) are supposed to clean up the house in anticipation of their mom’s return home. Meanwhile, neighbors Russ (Matt Frewer, in a role that appears to be an exact imitation of Jim Carrey) and Mae Thompson are preparing for a fishing trip with their sons Russ Jr. (Thomas Wilson Brown) and Ron (Jared Rushton).

When the two Thompson kids knock a baseball through the Szalinskis window, they rush upstairs with Amy and Nick to discover that the ball has activated Wayne’s previously malfunctioning shrinking machine – and that they’re in the device’s laser target. Once shrunk to extremely miniscule proportions, the foursome must contend with all sorts of new hazards and obstacles, from giant water droplets to bees, ants, brooms, and Lego Blocks. “I threw them out with the trash,” observes Wayne as he breaks the startling news to his wife.

The film was written by Stuart Gordon, the director of such gruesome cult classics as “Re-Animator,” “From Beyond,” and “Dolls,” along with Brian Yuzna, the director of similarly bloody schlock films “Society,” “The Dentist,” and “Rottweiler.” The premise behind “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” is a more blithesome, humorous take on “The Incredible Shrinking Man,” but certainly an odd choice to initiate with Gordon and Yuzna and end up as a PG-rated Disney film. Where “The Incredible Shrinking Man” may have taken the most serious and startlingly original elements of an unsuspecting victim rapidly becoming microscopic, “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” not only adds a few creative twists but also retains the action-filled fights and flights from enormous killer insects.

Like a Ray Harryhausen film for children, with stop-motion monsters and rubbery animatronics for close-ups, the consistently light tone allows the dangerous odyssey to remain fun, not frightening. The actual peril is fairly minimal, with the biggest achievement coming from taming an ant with an oatmeal cream pie. As fantastical tragedies seem to get the family back together, the life lessons and standard Disney messages aren’t domineeringly pushy, taking a backseat to the overall sense of comical, grand adventure. And that’s the way a fantasy-oriented kid’s film should be.

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10