Original release: June 23rd, 1989
Running time: 90 minutes
Director: Joe Johnston
Writers: Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna, Ed Naha
Composer: James Horner
Cast: Rick Moranis, Matt Frewer, Marcia Strassman, Kristine Sutherland, Thomas Wilson Brown, Amy O’Neill, Jared Rushton, Robert Oliveri
I don’t think we’re in the food chain anymore, Dorothy.
When you’re small, things have a way of looking much bigger than they really are. My childhood home, for example; I remember it being as big as what I imagined a palace to be. Rooms the size of courtyards and ceilings as high as the sky. The same for my backyard, and even the school I attended back then. Funny how small it all looked when I saw it again some years later as a teenager. It brings to mind the saying “It’s all relative”, but what if you were wake up one morning and realise the world you were once so familiar with now suddenly seems a whole lot bigger?
The adventure comedy, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids is one of those fun films from the late 80s that happened to envisage such a scenario. It’s also one I remember watching time and time again with my little nephew and nieces as they too were experiencing how much fun exploring the big wide world of everyday things like the attic and the backyard could be.
The story centres on an inventor, Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis), who accidentally shrinks his and his neighbour’s kids to ¼ of an inch with his electromagnetic shrink ray and sends them out into the backyard with the trash. The kids, Amy Szalinski (Amy O’Neill), Nick Szalinski (Robert Oliveri), Ron Thompson (Jared Rushton) and Russ Thompson Jr (Thomas Wilson Brown) then face an epic journey of sorts to make back home safely; through the garden and into the house where they hope to alert Wayne to the situation so he can revert them to their original size…that’s if he can get it work again!
Along the way, the kids encounter obstacles they wouldn’t have given a second thought to the day before. Their pet dog Quark, next door’s cat Spike, the sprinkler, ants, bees, a scorpion and a monstrous lawnmower that nearly shreds them alive. This all happens while all four parents, including Russ Thompson Sr (Matt Frewer) and Mae Thompson (Kristine Sutherland), are trying to figure where their kids could’ve gotten to. Eventually Wayne stumbles upon a miniature version of his couch in the attic and realizes that not only does his shrink ray actually work – but that the kids have accidently been shrunk and he threw them out with the trash!
After the lawnmower incident, the kids do manage to find their way back into the house, thanks to Quark, but they face one more obstacle before Wayne notices them – a giant bowl of Cheerios. Honey, I Shrunk The Kids is a film that’s filled with my many nice touches, not to mention the special effects.
At first look, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids is the kind of film that just seems like fun, but looking at it more closely various strands in narrative begin to present themselves. First there’s the inventor (Wayne) who’s become a distant figure to his children and a disappointing husband to his wife, Diane (Marcia Strassman). Their marriage is close to ending. Then there’s the bullying father (Russ Sr.) who wants his eldest son to be macho like him, and lastly we also have the blossoming romance between Amy and Little Russ. This all makes for a lot of tense relationships within the film.
What the final also achieves, besides bringing together these two families, is showing that balance can be found between the world of the small (the children) and the large (the adults). This is perhaps the strongest theme running through the film as we see both Nick and Ron essentially becoming smaller versions of their fathers and eventually realising why they’re at odds with the world at large (pardon the pun).
Yet for all these themes, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids is at its best when viewed as a kids film – it’s an adventure, it’s fun and it’s Disney pre-Pixar, which is all the more reason to sit back and remember what it was like to be so little again.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .