Honey, I Shrunk The Kids (1989) – A Review

Honey, I Shrunk The Kids

Scientist Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis) is struggling with his newest invention. He’s facing setbacks, mockery and mounting frustration with his machine that is designed to shrink objects. He’s about to give up until he discovers while away his machine actually works! The only downside to this is somehow his two children and the two neighbor boys were the ones who got shrunk!

Now the size of a quarter of an inch the four kids are lost in the backyard and must navigate sprinklers, lawnmowers and bugs to try to get back to the house. Let the adventure begin!

Disney’s Honey, I Shrunk The Kids was released in the middle of the big 1989 summer bonanza. The summer calendar was packed with tons of high-profile movies. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Ghostbusters II, Lethal Weapon 2, Karate Kid Part III, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, When Harry Met Sally, Weekend At Bernie’s, License To Kill, Parenthood, Turner and Hooch, The Abyss, Uncle Buck and the most popular movie of the year, Batman.

Despite all the competition Honey, I Shrunk The Kids became a huge hit. At the time it was the highest grossing live-action Disney movie. It would go on to create a theatrical sequel, a direct-to-video sequel, theme park attractions and a short-lived television series.

Working on a special effects shot for the movie

I remember going to Disney World shortly after the movie came out and they had a short making of film about the special effects in the bee sequence. I vividly remember it being hosted by Siskel and Ebert! I was probably the only one at the time who was impressed seeing clips of Gene and Roger on a Disney tour. I bet they retired that video clip ages ago.

All the ‘Honey’ projects that came after 1989 is moot to me though. It’s the original movie that still stands as one entertaining fun movie.

Director Joe Johnston uses the shrinking premise to create plenty of exciting scenes of the kids lost in this dangerous world – their backyard. Some of the special effects might look rough today, but it doesn’t dilute the fun of the movie. It’s still a real kick when the sprinkler goes off and the kids are being bombarded by huge drops of water and stuff like that.

With this being a Disney film even the insects end up being adorable. Meeting ‘Anty’ and what becomes of him will make even the most cynical viewer say ‘Awww’. I’m still not completely convinced that the Szalinski’s would have scorpions in their backyard though. That seems a bit of stretch, but what the heck.

That whole scene plays out as a goofy homage to
1950’s/60’s fantasy films with Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion special effects. I suppose it’s not that surprising, since the movie definitely takes its cue from the old sci-fi movie The Incredible Shrinking Man. Even the sequel could have been called ‘The Amazing Colossal Baby’.

Kids in movies can typically be annoying and stiff, but here the kid cast are all pretty likable. Even the little romantic flirting between the two young teens is kept somewhat subdued and doesn’t get groan inducing.

At the time out of the cast I only knew Jared Rushton from Big and the rest of the kids were all new faces to me. I don’t think I’ve seen any of them since, not counting the kids who went on to be in the sequel.

Moranis is very funny as the dorky dad and is matched by neighbor Matt Frewer. You would think that while watching the movie you would want to skip over the regular-sized worried parents stuff and get to the shrunken kids running around in the yard, but Moranis and Frewer are goofy and animated and a lot of fun to watch doing their physical comedy and being nervous wrecks with their more level-headed wives – Kristine Sutherland and the recently passed Marcia Strassman.

I would have liked to have seen Moranis and Frewer reteam for a dopey cop buddy movie or something.

The movie holds up as an entertaining adventure fantasy. The whole premise of kids being shrunk to minuscule size is something that kids from all generations can marvel at. I rewatched this recently with my nephews and they all loved it. When our shruken heroes are walking around hungry and then come across a giant cookie all of them cheered with enthusiasm and started yelling “They are so lucky!”. Giant cookies are a timeless universal goldmine to kids.

I’m kind of surprised we haven’t seen a remake of this movie with it’s funny sounding title yet. It seems destined to be resurrected at some point. Especially now that Ant-Man has shown a new generation of kids how getting shrunk can result in some pretty fun adventures. This has all the making of a rebooted franchise that seems destined to happen.

I’m sure the special effects will be much less hands-on ie. plenty of CGI. I don’t think that will make it any better though.



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2 Responses

  1. CKulik says:

    I remember seeing HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS on my birthday upon its release in 1989. All of the adults, including my parents, thoroughly enjoyed the film just as much as myself and the kids who were joining me for my party. That was quite the experience: still have vivid memories of the boys' ride on the bee, Anty's heartbreaking death after the clash with the scorpion (which may not be all that believable, but it was still amazing to see it in the theaters regardless), Nicky inside dad's bowl of Cheerios (now there is product placement for you!). I also remember the Roger Rabbit cartoon TUMMY TROUBLE before the main feature which made the audience scream with laughter, a perfect appetizer to the main feast you could say.

    And you're right: Moranis & Frewer are so good together here they could have easily done other films together. Poor Marcia Strassman, who died much too young. As for the kids, the only other film I remember Thomas Brown (Frewer's son) doing was this 1990 dud with Winona Ryder called WELCOME HOME, ROXY CARMICHAEL. Amy O'Neil was pretty cute, yet her and her brother only re-appeared for the sequel HONEY, I BLEW UP THE KID….which I thought was okay, both in terms of its story and special effects. Never saw or heard anything else in the franchise, and to be honest I have no inclination whatsoever, especially considering the 3rd film was direct-to-video and Moranis' last before this early retirement. Thanks for the memories and the review!

    By the way, I became a huge Moranis fan after HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS, even more than his turns in STRANGE BREW and GHOSTBUSTERS. I remember going to see his next film, MY BLUE HEAVEN with Steve Martin and written by Nora Ephron. Did you ever see that one? It starred Martin as a hip Italian mafioso in the Federal Witness Protection Program with Moranis as the agent in charge of his case and the latter has a fling with local small town detective Joan Cusack, who was like a foot taller than him! That was a pretty funny movie and Moranis & Martin made a great team, and it was a rare chance to see Martin without his trademark white hair. It also had our old friend David Knell who starred in SPRING BREAK: he's the young guy in the supermarket who is astonished after Martin hands him a $100 bill after paying $12.36 worth of meat which Martin had stolen the price-maker for and got like 20 steaks. Good stuff! 🙂

  2. Nick_H says:

    Two things:

    1. Giant insects in movies have always creeped me out. I was squirming in my seat during the second half of the movie.

    2. Marcia Strassman has died? Oh man……

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