Squabbling siblings, giant flesh-eating lizards, and crashing meteors fill the screen in this space-adventure film based on the 2002 book by Chris Van Allsburg (The Polar Express, Jumanji). When 6-year-old Danny and 10-year-old Walter are left home alone while their father (Tim Robbins) is at work, they discover the mysterious board game Zathura hidden beneath the basement steps. It has the look of a vintage tin windup toy; each time they crank the key to produce a little card to advance their spaceship game pieces, however, it has bigger implications. Galactic implications.
Soon, giant razor-wielding robots and pyromaniac aliens have invaded their home. Once the house launches into outer space, they realize they must continue playing Zathura in order to get back on terra firma. Director Jon Favreau (Swingers) does a fine job of making their escapades exciting without being unduly scary. Though you do have to get past an irritating slew of father-son discussions before the action begins. Zathura maintains a consistent pace and relationship between the sparring brothers. This means many earsplitting sibling screaming matches. Though we're supposed to find Danny adorable, his constant whimpering may be too realistic for some parents to bear. In space, everyone can hear you whine. (PG)