‘That’s another thing I’m worried about: Amy. In the dark. With Little Russ Thompson...’
On the surface, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is hardly a cinematic milestone. Watching it again recently for the first time in almost thirty years made me long for the days of practical effects and ingenious set design, however. This film was in cinemas at the same time as Tim Burton’s Batman, and whatever you think about Burton and his work (I’m not a fan) there is no denying that he made Gotham look menacing and unique and alive. The same is true of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. The sets took nine months of 12-hour days to complete and all that hard work pays off in the final product…
Scientist Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis) is struggling to keep his family together possibly because he devotes all of his time to attempting to invent a shrink ray. His next-door neighbour Big Russ Thompson (Matt Frewer) and his family simply want to go on a fishing trip. Big Russ (as he is billed in the credits) is a simple man and a wonderful character – the best in the movie. Following a mishap with a baseball, Wayne’s kids Amy (Amy O’Neill) and Nick (Robert Oliveri) and Big Russ’s offspring Little Russ (Thomas Wilson Brown) and Ron (Jared Rushton) are shrunk to the size of a small insect. Ahh 1989. Dive in. The water’s lovely.
Director Joe Johnston had worked as VFX artist on Raiders of the Lost Ark before Honey… and went on to direct Jumanji, Jurassic Park III and Captain America: The First Avenger. This is a man who knows his way around big budgets and lots of effects. And it shows here. The set design is utterly absorbing, even beautiful in places, much like Dagobah from The Empire Strikes Back or the fire swamp from The Princess Bride. They really don’t make them like they used to, kids.
Aside from the mise-en-scene, the film itself is a whole load of cheerful nonsense. Some lovely low-stakes fun anchored by excellent performances from Moranis and Frewer and a spirited contribution from the younger cast members. The fact that the script comes from a pair of horror legends in Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator) and Brian Yuzna (Society) ensures that large sections of the film are pleasingly dark, something that is sadly missing from the more sanitised Disney offerings of recent years.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is what happens when you let a bunch of talented people create the art they want to make. The result is a film that was a critical and commercial smash. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting it.