By Nathan Smith
The feature film debut of visual effects artists Joe Johnston, who later went on to direct Jumanji, October Sky, and the first Captain America film, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is literally the most high-concept movie ever made. If you’re not familiar with the term, “high-concept” doesn’t mean “high-brow,” but unstead a pitch for a movie which can be summed up in basically one sentence. Honey, I Shrunk The Kids takes that challenge even further and delivers its premise in just the title. I’m not necessarily a fan of high-concept ideas, because I feel like they often limit a movie’s scope and breadth, but I can appreciate them when done right, which Honey, I Shrunk the Kids does. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot else that movie does do right; it criminally undervalues Rick Moranis as a performer, and most of the special effects, which I’m sure might have been better at the time, don’t seem to do much for the rest of the film. The idea of changed perspectives could allow for a lot of awe to enter into the equation, but it seems relatively wooden for a movie whose basic conceit lends itself so easily to child-like wonder. To be honest, it’s a perfect candidate for a remake: well-known enough (if just for its title) to get people in the seats, but not classic or iconic enough to constitute a deadly sin.
But there is one interesting idea that the movie puts forth, and that’s the metaphor behind “shrinking” the kids. I’m sure every child has felt ignored at one time by their parents, and the young protagonists of this film seem to have it bad: Nick’s father doesn’t have time for his son because he devotes it all to his invention, while Russ’ dad doesn’t realize how much Russ hates the pressure put upon him. The lack of attention that the children receive makes them feel small and helpless. It’s not until the children are actually small and helpless that their parents realize how much they’ve been hurting the kids and attempt to re-connect. It’s an interesting metaphor, one that’s played out pretty subtly and gives the movie a little needed weight, but unfortunately, the rest of the film is such a clunker that it doesn’t accomplish a whole lot for it.
Often times in this series, I’ll analyze a film from my regular critical perspective. But part of the point is not to condemn not-so-great kids’ movies just because of what they are, but instead to re-enter the skin of my childhood again and view a movie from a different state of mind. That’s why I try and find something more positive about Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, even though it honestly seems a little laughable from where I am now in life. There are are redeeming qualities and messages to this film that focus on the important of connections and parent-child communication, which I think might resonate powerfully with kids. As you get older, you lose touch with those issues and the things that you once felt. And that’s why I think that in the right hands, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids could have the potential for greatness, not if re-done again as a clunky children’s flick, but instead as a wondrous visual effects piece with a message that resonates with kids. In a perfect world, we’d have E.T., The Goonies, Stand by Me… and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Kids need movies to wow their eyes and fill their hearts. I think Honey, I Shrunk the Kids set out to do that, even if it didn’t quite get there.