Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Little Children

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Director: Joe Johnston
Cast: Rick Moranis, Matt Frewer, Marcia Strassman, Kristine Sutherland, Amy O'Neil, Robert Oliveri, Thomas Brown, Jared Rushton
Released: June 23, 1989

I hadn't seen this movie in a very long time, but I have to say I really enjoyed watching it again. And while there are a few effects that seem very obvious, I think it still holds up quite well for when it was made. If you look at the cast, you may only be familiar with Rick Moranis, but if you ever watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you may notice Kristine Sutherland's name. She played Buffy's mom on that show, Joyce Summers. In this she plays the neighbor to Moranis's scientist character, Wayne Szalinski. 

He has invented a machine that shrinks things, or at least it's supposed to, but it's not quite working. Instead of shrinking things, it explodes them as that is what happens when he tests an apple. We see him giving him a presentation about his new invention, but people in the audience keep leaving and the joke is made that the only thing he's shrinking is the audience. It's actually not a bad idea what he's invented...just think of how much cargo you could get on a ship if everything were greatly reduced in size...of course, you would just have to be able to get those items back to their normal size. And just think how convenient it would be if you moved! You could literally pack up everything you owned into a suitcase! I love it! Although, you probably wouldn't want terrorists getting their hands on this machine. That could spell trouble. This is a movie that could have gone either way - either comedy or flat out horror. But since this is a Disney family film, it's mostly a comedy with a few suspenseful moments. Let's just say if this were the real world, these kids would be dead, dead, dead, and dead! In fact, I was shocked to find out (according to IMDB, not sure where the actual source came from) that there were originally FIVE kids and one of them drowns during the scene the sprinklers are accidentally turned on. Yikes! This is a Disney movie! They're normally not known for being so dark. And I want to know if this kid was part of the Szalinski clan or the Thompson family or if he (or she) was just a another kid from the neighborhood. For what kind of movie it is, I think they made the right call by not adding such a morbid detail!

Wayne Szalinski is so ahead of his time that he even invented texting before texting existed! Well, a very early draft of it. From the kitchen, his children can let him know that it's time to eat, and in return, he can type a message from his computer in the attic where he works and let them know when he'll be down and it's printed out. He just needed to invent auto correct because "I'll be down in five minutes" came out as "I'll be down on fine mimicks."

We have the Szalinskis and the Thompsons who live next door to each other, but don't seem to like each other and the kids aren't really friends with each other. Big Russ Thompson (Matt Frewer) is the one married to Sutherland's character, Mae, and he hates all the noise coming from the Szalinski side since it's usually early in the morning. He has two sons: Little Russ (Thomas Brown) and Ron (Jared Rushton). He finds out his oldest son didn't make the football team (but we later find out he actually quit) because he's too scrawny and is trying to help him with his self-esteem about his size (ah, you see what the movie is doing?) It was bugging me so much because the kid who played Ron looked so familiar to me. I know I had seen him before, so I looked him up. He played Tom Hanks's friend, Billy, in Big, which came out the year prior. Only in that movie he's a redhead and he's a blond in this one. He's a little jerk, always fighting with everyone and causing arguments, although he will have a touching moment later on in the film. The Szalinski children include popular high schooler Amy (Amy O'Neill) who is planning on going to the mall later that day because she is sure she is going to be asked to the dance by the guy she likes. Meanwhile, Russ Jr., who's the same age as her, has a crush on her. Amy's little brother, Nick (Robert Oliveri) is a few years younger than Ron and he's just like his dad: a major nerd and super smart, and he owns it. In fact, he tricks a neighbor kid into mowing the lawn for him, which is his chore. 

Their adventure begins on a day when Wayne is at his convention and his wife (Marcia Strassman) is out and the Thompson family is getting ready for a camping trip and the two adults are too busy to pay any mind to their kids. Ron is playing with his baseball and hits it right into the Zsalinski's attic where it conveniently lands right in front of the shrinking machine. His older brother takes him next door so he can explain what happened. The two young boys go upstairs and when they don't return (because they've been shrunken!), their older siblings go up to see what's going on and they shrink too. Somehow the machine activated when it was hit by the baseball and shrinks all the kids. But before it did that, we see it shrink a couch.

When Wayne comes home, Quark, the Szalinski terrier, barks to lets him know that something is up, but I didn't understand why he didn't go over right to the kids. The damn dog never indicates where the kids are, even though he can smell and hear them while people cannot hear the shrunken kids yelling. I just felt like Quark never tried hard enough to get Wayne's attention about the size of the kids, but I know there would be no movie if Wayne found them and fixed the situation. However, Quark will come in handy in a later scene when Wayne almost becomes a cannibal! Even though I've seen the movie before and know that everything turns out all right in the end, I thought for sure Wayne was going to step on all the kids when he entered the attic. His feet get pretty close to them. The special effects are a lot of fun and this looked like it would have been a fun movie to be in. When Wayne comes home and sees his attic is a mess, he grabs a broom and starts sweeping. All the kids are running from the bristles, but then they grab hold onto them when they can't outrun the broom and are dumped from a dust pan into the outside trash, which is located in the backyard for some weird reason. Don't most people keep their trash in the garage, then bring it out to the curb on trash day? The kids get out of the trash bag and slide down a blade of glass which looked like a lot of fun. Not as fun as the water slide from The Goonies, mind you, but who wouldn't want to slide down a blade of grass?

Nick, our nerdy smart kid calculates that they are a quarter of an inch tall and are sixty four feet from the house which is the equivalent of 3.2 miles (I would have guessed a lot more for how small they are!) This movie could never be made today. Why? Because Nick's calculator also shrunk with him and that's how he was able to figure out the dimensions. If a kid in a current take of this movie was shrunk, they mostly would likely have their phone and could just text their parents and tell them that they can be found on the stone in the middle of the yard. Sure, it might take them awhile to text the message! It would be fun to see a current update on this story, but you would need to find a way to make it so it's not so easy for them to fix the problem.

Ron, our little turd of a character, is whining about how they're supposed to go fishing and Amy replies, "Yeah, right! How are you going, as bait?" And when Amy says, "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto," Ron replies with, "I don't think we're on the food chain anymore, Dorothy." There's a few famous movie quotes in this movie. When they realize that Quark can possible hear them and start whistling to get his attention, Russ doesn't know how to whistle, so Amy tells him, "You just put your lips together and blow."

The majority of the movie takes place in the backyard "jungle". They come across a stream of water which is most likely dog urine (eww!) The kids are separated when Nick is nearly attacked by a bee, but Russ saves him and they both jump on the bee's back and it flies around the backyard several times. We even see them past Wayne and they're screaming at him, but he's just trying to shoo the bee away. The special effects don't quite hold up. It's obvious they shot the actors on the back of a large mechanical bee in front of a green screen.

Now around this time, Wayne has discovered what's going on and knows the kids have been shrunk. His shrunken couch is his first clue that his machine works. I laughed when he told his wife that his machine works and she asked him if the kids knew and he's like, "Yeah, they know." When he does tell her what happened, he just tells her, "I shrunk the kids", omitting the "Honey" from the title. Wayne figures out that he threw out the kids with the trash and they're now somewhere in the backyard. While wearing binoculars, he uses stilts to walk on the grass which doesn't make any sense to me. Sure, there's less area on the leg of a stilt than someone's shoes, but HE COULD STILL SMASH ALL OF THEM TO SMITHEREENS! He will eventually be hooked up to a contraption that swings him around the yard so at least he's not putting any weight on the ground. When he's on the stilts, this is when the sprinklers are turned on accidentally, (and this is when the fifth character would have died), the kids have to run for their lives. Amy nearly does drown, but Russ Jr. saves her by giving her mouth-to-mouth (something he learned in French class - this will become a big joke in the movie).

After Amy is saved by Russ, she starts to see him in a new light. There is a really odd scene we see with the Szalinski parents expressing their concerns for their children when it starts to get dark and there has been no sign of them yet. Is Mrs. Szalinski worried that her kids are only a quarter of an inch tall and could be killed by insects, birds, or small rodents...which mostly come out during the night? Or that the weather could kill them, especially if it rains? Or just the fact that if a person or even a dog or cat walks across the backyard, they could be squashed? No, she's worried that it's dark and that her teenage daughter might be getting it on with the neighbor boy. First of all, before this moment Amy and Russ had never really interacted that much before, it's not like he was her boyfriend. And even if he was, their younger brothers are with them and they're super tiny. I don't think they would even be thinking about that. Now, they do kiss, but that's as far as it goes. But shouldn't have she been worried about a lot more things before she was worried about that? The kids find a Lego piece and end up spending the night in it (very cool!)

They are now closer to the house because they had help getting to the Lego piece. They had come across a huge Hostess oatmeal cookie (you know, the ones with the cream filling in the they even still make those?) The kids are excited and run towards it as they are super hungry. Ron had even mentioned that he was so hungry that he could eat a corn dog the size of a truck and his brother comments that a regular one WOULD be the size of a truck! Now, I don't know how long this oatmeal cookie had been lying in the grass, but it is a shock that it wasn't SWARMING with ants. However one ant does show up and they run away, scared. This is a baby ant (not sure how they know that) and it's bigger than them! Somehow they tame the ant, name it Anty (how original), and use a piece of the cookie to guide it towards their house until they reach the Lego and decide to camp out in it. They tell Anty to go home, but the ant has bonded with them, especially Ron, who's crying as he tells Anty to "Go on!" and "Get out of here!" He even tells Anty that his mom will never let him keep him and I'm thinking, Uh, it's an ant...she probably would't even know if you had one!

The next morning the kids are awoken to a terrifying site when they are attacked by a...scorpion! Uh, what the hell? Do most people find scorpions in their backyard like that? I have never (thank god!) seen a scorpion in real life in my life. It just seemed very out of place. The scorpion attacks Ron who is still in the Lego while the other kids have managed to escape. These Legos weren't exactly accurate because there are two holes which Ron manages to escape out of one since the other hole is blocked by the arachnid. Oh, and who should come to the rescue? It's Anty! There's a fight between a baby ant and a full grown scorpion. Yeah, it's the most unfair fight ever, but Anty puts up a good fight. Even though the scorpion backs up and scuttles away when the kids start throwing dirt at it, it's not enough to save Anty, who got stung. Yes, Anty died! While watching this, I said outloud, "He died?", then burst into tears. No, I didn't burst into tears, but my voice wavered and I did feel really sad! And I HATE ants! They're so disgusting! I once had an ant infestation in a place where I used to live and I had to buy a whole bunch of Raid, and oh, God, it was so gross. They were everywhere. But this made me feel really bad for the kids who had grown an attachment to this little gross insect. But I guess it's better for the ant to die, than, you know, an actual human being!

RIP Anty
June 22, 1989 - June 23, 1989
The kids are so close to their home now and even see Wayne's face peering down at them as he continues the search for them the next morning, but of course he can't hear them when they're yelling at him. There's still one more obstacle the kids have to get through (at least in the backyard) before they make it out of there. Remember when Nick got a neighbor kid to mow the lawn for him? Well, it just so happens he comes over the next morning and the Szalinski parents hear the sound of a motor when they're trying to fix the shrinking machine and realize the terrible thing that's going on in their backyard. They're screaming at the kid to stop, but he's wearing headphones and can't hear them. We have another near-death experience where the kids are nearly hacked to death by the blade, but it stops just in the nick of time.

The kids call for Quark again and he comes out to rescue him. When they called for him the other day, he tried to go to them, but he was scared off by the Thompson cat. This time, he just trotted by the cat. Go, Quark! The kids grab onto his fur which more looks like shag carpet when
we get a close up of it and Quark brings them into the kitchen. Here is the scene where he finally brings attention to Wayne when Nick falls into a bowl of Cheerios and Wayne unknowingly scoops his youngest child up onto his spoon and is ABOUT TO EAT HIM and Quark, thank God, bites his leg so he drops the spoon and then notices the minuscule child in his Cheerios. Can we just all give Quark some major kudos here? A man was about to EAT HIS CHILD, but Quark saved the day! Yay, Quark! For the kid in the bowl of Cheerios scene, they had the actor swim in a tank filled with water and food thickener to make it look like milk and the Cheerios were tractor tires with foam around them. I love it!

Now that Wayne has found the kids, all he has to do is bring them back to their original size, but first he wants to test his machine on a living organism to make sure it's safe. There's a funny scene where the dog runs out of the room when he hears that. Wayne is about to do it himself, but Mr. Thompson (the Thompson parents are well aware of what's going on and come over when they find out their kids have been found) tells him he'll be the guinea pig since Wayne needs to control the machine. Of course, everything is fine and the machine works on him and the kids are returned to their normal size.

Despite some outdated effects and the fact that the insects look super fake, and the parents didn't really seem that concerned about their kids being super small, I really enjoyed this movie and had a lot of fun watching it and it was a lot of fun to go back and revisit it. And let's give it up for Quark one last time!

Good dog!

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