Rated PG for terrifying me as a child and having some smoking. Listen, I was shamed last night while watching this with my family for thinking it was too scary for our children. They seem find after having seen it, including my two-year-old. It's a lot of peril and bugs up close look pretty gross. Honestly, even the oatmeal cookie looks a little gross close up when they break off crumbs. Still, PG.
DIRECTOR: Joe Johnston
Man, Joe Johnston had a much bigger career than I ever gave him credit for. Anyway, we watched Willow a few nights ago. When the movie ended, Disney+ in all of its gracious glory, recommended similar films. My wife lost it. We kept clicking the recommendations to see what else would be suggested afterwards. Yeah, that got out of control. But my wife seriously got into the notion of watching the first Honey, I Shrunk the Kids movie. Now, my wife was a quasi-expert coming to life while Willow was going on. I was far more wired to be into Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. It's that sci-fi v. fantasy preference, I guess.
I didn't watch it as closely as I would have liked to. Our dishwasher is on its last legs, so I was handwashing too many dishes at the time. But I realized that if I didn't write about this one because I didn't watch it AS closely as I would have liked, it would have felt like a cop out because I could hear everything; I was listening to everything; I watched most of it. Yeah, that counts. If I miss a beat from a movie that I had seen many times many years ago, I'll take the mulligan on that one. It's weird watching a movie that you used to watch as a kid as an adult. Now, this is a film from 1989, so I have to give the points to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids on this one. But is Honey I Shrunk the Kids just Jurassic Park with less to say. That sounds like I'm really slagging it off, but bear with me.
I realize that the kids-in-peril subgenre is a thing. But it's really condensed and juiced here harder than I have seen in a long time. The kids didn't ask for this to happen to them, which makes them the more likable. It's why they can only be tortured so much and that they all have to survive, unlike poor Antie. Okay, maybe Ron can be blamed. But this is one of those movies that wanted to really push the limits at times, but kept reminding itself that it was a Disney property in the late '80s. The saddest you were allowed to get was killing the ant who came to the kids' rescue. That's something, I suppose. But in terms of storytelling, it's an excuse to show off set pieces. Again, this sounds like an insult (and to a certain extent it is). But if the purpose was to show off set pieces, this is a movie that does that. Sure, the proportions are all over the place. For example, that T-Rex toy had to be tinier than a blade of grass to exist in this film. But this was a movie that reveled in the details. The grass wasn't just a waxy surface. It had strands.
As much as I love Joe Johnston for making a movie this fun, I want to give more props to the set designers. (I almost said "props to the propmasters" before realizing I'm barely above that.) There was this push to add real world conditions to everything. It's stupid things, but it made me just appreciate the notion that Disney tends to pull out the stops. In the final minutes of the movie, once the kids are found, they're being transported around on a spoon. That spoon has natural scratches on it. It's something that we don't see unless you are really looking. That is consistent throughout the movie. The table, which look like a solid colored table, is actually a composite of dots that create an effect. When we see the table from the kids perspective, we see all of the small colors that make up what we perceive as a single color. That stuff is great. So part of me is now stuck in an assessment of judging a work as spectacle. Honey I Shrunk the Kids, like the original Avatar movie (the blue people movie), is a movie of spectacle. Okay, that sounds like I really hate it. It's more of a movie of spectacle and charm.
I mean, it's not hilarious. It is funny, but it isn't hilarious. But it is charming. What Honey, I Shrunk the Kids does is combine a bunch of archetypes that we are very comfortable with and have them all interact. I used to write this all the time on the blog, but it is the best version of paint-by-numbers. We have the nerdy dad played by Rick Moranis. I mean, how much more on the nose can you get? Then you put a kid in the same pair of glasses and you have Rick Moranis, Jr. You have a hot girl coupled with the rebel and a school bully paired up with the nerd. If you were to watch this movie for any kind of depth, there's going to be something lacking. I never really got on board The Breakfast Club train. I know. It's a bit of blasphemy that I saw it once and decided it wasn't for me. But both these movies allow their archetypes to do all the talking for them. No one in this movie really needs to do any acting outside of what their archetype mandates. (Geez, it sounds like I really hate this movie.) Yet, there's something charming about the whole thing.
It probably comes from a superficial emotional core. There's a version of this script (at least, I imagine so!) that doesn't have a fight between Wayne and Diane. The movie starts off with Wayne and Diane in crisis. At least, that's what we're told secondhand. Amy is talking to a friend about how her mom had to stay at Grandma's that night because of a big fight. Amy doesn't seem all that bothered by it, which is at least an interesting choice because the movie will make a meal of that later. But every time we see Wayne and Diane, they seem absolutely loving of one another. I get that the two are in a bit of a slump, but I don't get the divorce angle. My guesses about why Wayne and Diane are in a slump? I imagine that it adds a level of emotional depth that the movie is sorely lacking coupled with a plausible reason for Wayne to smash the machine. The machine needed to be smashed because Act III is underdeveloped. There's something anticlimactic about returning the kids to the regular size. The machine needed to be broken and repaired to have Wayne to have some business.
The movie knows that the most marketable name to this movie is Rick Moranis, right? It's most billable actor is on the poster and he has very little business in this movie. It's fun to see him on the dolly looking for his kids. But his life isn't in danger. He's John Hammond sitting in the visitor's center hoping to get his grandkids back. (Yeah, I can't unsee the Jurassic Park comparison that will come in a few years.) So the machine is smashed to make him a better husband and to have emotional stakes for returning to the home. I'm surprised that they didn't try the old "I'm staying tiny" game, which wouldn't have made much sense, but I can see being the old switcheroo. Anyway, that's why Wayne and Diane are fighting: to give the movie some meat and to pad out an underfed third act. (I can't read "underfed" ever. It always looks like "un-derfed" to me.)
Anyway, I enjoyed the movie, but it doesn't have much to say. Sure, kids and parents realize that they need each other. But the lessons learned are pretty superficial. Trauma brings these two neighbors together and gets kids to talk to their parents. But it's just meant to be a fun movie. And it is...I guess.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.