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‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 23, 1989


Randal Kleiser
Rick Moranis;
Marcia Strassman;
Llyod Bridges;
Robert Oliveri;
John Shea
Parental guidance suggested

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"Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" is one of life's Lilliputian pleasures, a bighearted peewee's adventure from Disney Studios complete with a darling doggie, a fresh-scrubbed cast and an absent-minded professor.

Played with endearing goofiness by Rick Moranis, Professor Szalinski ignores his family to tinker with his obsession, an electromagnetic shrinking machine. While messing around with the thing, the Szalinski children -- teenager Amy (Amy O'Neill) and her kid brother Nick (Robert Oliveri) -- are miniaturized along with their hated neighbors, the Thompson kids -- teenager Russ (Thomas Brown) and his irascible younger brother Ron (Jared Rushton).

Now smaller than Thumbelina's measurements, the kidscan't get the attention of Szalinski, who unknowingly sweeps them up with the trash. And so their Gulliver's travails begin. Ants are formidable as dinosaurs and drops from the sprinkler like downpours. The good news: Nick's allergy to pollen subsides, because the grains are too big to get into his nostrils. The micronauts squabble at first, but overcoming shared hardships turns this incompatible quartet into chums for life.

Though it relies on special effects, this cutie-pie caper never loses sight of the protagonists amid the bigger-than-life Cheerios and 40-foot blades of grass. And the process gives them a new perspective: The shrunken kids are actually growing up.

With their acerbic characters and pugnacious repartee, writers Ed Naha and Tom Schulman of "The Dead Poet's Society" keep this Walt-must-be-smiling-down homily from getting soppy. "Hope your face ends up on a milk carton," Ron snaps at the the popular but shallow Amy, who gets deeper as the day wears on.

A romance blossoms between Amy and Russ, who overcomes his timidity to become a roots-and-grubs swashbuckler -- saving his girl and bronco-busting bumblebees. Short in real life as well, Russ can never be the football player his controlling bruiser of a father (Matt Frewer) wants him to be -- shades of "Dead Poets." Nick Szalinski has quite the opposite problem. A little scientist himself, he can't get his father to look at his replica of the shrinking machine.

Director Joe Johnston, a veteran of Industrial Light and Magic, brings a wry Rube Goldberg approach to his first-ever feature. The sets are definitely plastic, but that slightly homemade look is refreshing in the hardware movie decade.

"Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" is by no means a major motion picture. In fact, it stands out for its lack of pretensions, a flower growing in a crack, a 40-pound weakling among the Gargantuans of summer. As for "Tummy Trouble," the appended Roger Rabbit cartoon, better bring Maalox.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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