Picks and Pans Review: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

updated 07/10/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/10/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Rick Moranis, Marcia Strassman

Like one of the better Disney animated features, this live-action film from the Disney studios offers some laughs, a little suspense, some innocuous romance and a lot of affable, lively distraction.

It uses the same shrunken-human gimmick that served such earlier sci-fi-fantasy landmarks as the Lionel Barrymore film Devil Doll, Dr. Cyclops with Albert Dekker, The Incredible Shrinking Man with Grant Williams and the TV series Land of the Giants, as well as the Lily Tomlin comedy The Incredible Shrinking Woman. And while the film is the directing debut of special-effects wizard Joe (Stars Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark) Johnston, most of its effects—hungry insects and cats, for instance—aren't much different from those used in the Dekker film 50 years ago. What is appealing is that this time the shrunken humans are four likable youngsters—Thomas (Silverado) Brown, 16, Jared (Big) Rushton, 15, Amy O'Neill, 17, and Robert Oliveri, 10.

They're shrunken by a device built by Moranis, of Ghostbusters II fame, who plays a very reasonable mad scientist with few of his usual nerdy quirks. Sure, his gadget accidentally shrinks his two children and two of the neighbors'. But he can discuss the situation calmly, even while he's examining his backyard with a magnifying glass to find the little darlings—very little darlings—while he hangs from the clothesline to avoid a fatal misstep.

Moranis is, as usual, fun to watch. The other adults are on the drab side, including Strassman (Welcome Back, Kotter) as Moranis's wife, Matt (Max Headroom) Frewer and Kristine (Legal Eagles) Sutherland as their neighbors and fellow worried parents.

Much of the humor in the script, by author-journalist Ed Naha and Tom (Dead Poets Society) Schulman, is heavy on the sarcasm—"I hope your face ends up on a milk carton," one of the kids says to another. And sensitive small children may have some trouble with scenes where the kids are menaced by a scorpion or threatened with sinking in a mud bog. Anybody who made it through Bambi or The Jungle Book without too much trauma should be able to handle this, though.

So does that mean...? Could it be...? Yes, this is a rare sighting of that endangered species, the family film that won't confuse the little ones, gross out the teenagers or bore the adults. Kind of makes you wish you had half a dozen kids, a station wagon and a nearby drive-in that has $5-a-car nights. (PG)

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