Honey, I Blew Up the Kid – #1 in the US (July 17-19)
All-Time Domestic & Worldwide $58,662,452
Honey, I Blew Up the Kid expands on the spectacle while shrinking down on laughs.
Disney’s live-action slate was never strong compared to its animated slate. Outside of few expectations before 1992, it was a sea of hit-and-miss. For every Mary Poppins, there’s a Candleshoe (sorry, Candleshoe heads). One exception in the 80s came late with Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Directed by Joe Johnston in his feature film debut, it was an adventure like no other with kids shrunken by a shrink ray and stuck in the jungle that is their backyard. It’s a special effects showcase done by a man who worked on the original Star Wars series with memorable moments that blend practical, stop-motion, and early computer effects. It’s also a family comedy with Rick Moranis getting to be a dorky father riding high off the success of Little Shop of Horrors and Ghostbusters. It’s something that still would play well today as it did back in 1989. Instead, it became a modest success, leading to a sequel without Johnston’s involvement. This time, the film would make a baby the size of a kaiju.
Wayne Szalinski (Moranis) and his family have moved out of the primary suburbs and into the desert of Nevada in Las Vegas. Wayne’s daughter Amy is off to college with Diane (Marcia Strassman) going with her to see her off. He is now a part of Sterling Labs, using his shrink ray to reverse the technology to expand and grow matter. This experiment has not worked out well, but Wayne’s help is denied despite being the machine’s inventor. Wayne, along with his sons Nick (Robert Oliveri) and Adam (Daniel & Joshua Shalikar), heads to the lab to fix the experiment for themselves by blowing up a plush of a bunny. Unfortunately, Adam is hit instead. Adam grows in size once they reach home, much to the chagrin of the babysitter and Nick’s crush Mandy (Keri Russell). Adam begins to go on a tear. Meanwhile, the rest of the Szalinskis figure out how to stop a monster of a child.
Honey, I Blew Up the Kids is more a special effects demo than a movie with stakes. It flows almost like a theme park attraction in that there is only one thing the audience is here for a giant baby. On that level, it succeeds, but unlike the first film, there’s no wonder or humor attached to it. Instead, it’s another showcase with the heart cut out of it.
The main attraction of the effects is the saving grace. The effects pay off even when the film starts to fall into the basic family comedy doldrums. There are seamless scenes with Adam towering over his dad and brother as if he is in the room. Great perspective work and editing tricks are going on in most of the frames. Chromakey and green screen can seem off in other scenes, making the effects noticeably off. The practical is still mixed in there with giant Adidas shoes being made and Adam’s pocket with Nick and Mandy being a treasure trove of larger-than-life versions of a crayon, a toy, and a Native American figurine. It’s a throwback to the first film of sorts at that moment.
The scene that was my highlight as a kid was when Adam entered Downtown Las Vegas like Godzilla on parade (including a Godzilla joke that is not funny at all). The moment is impressive akin to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man scene in Ghostbusters without ever calling attention to it like in 2022’s Sonic the Hedgehog 2. This scene is the reason someone comes to see it because it is where the movie shows out all the stops. Adam grabbing the car like a Hot Wheel and lying around the area is a joy to see with a mixture of miniatures, Chromakey, computer effects, and actual shots on the street itself. There are even uses of matte paintings and animation to make the scene come to light. It’s also amazing to see Diane involved in the action to save the day as a giant mom to calm the crying giant.
Spectacle aside, however, this is quite a dry movie with light comedy. However, credit where credit is due, that there was no toilet humor. There was no poop being thrown into a hotel nor piss showering into the streets. How the writers avoided that in this movie is a divine miracle from heaven. The humor comes from the bizarre nature of everything, but it’s the typical humor that only gives a quick chuckle rather than belly laughs. One of those is trying to calm Adam with the Hokey Pokey, but instead of tiring the giant child, it wipes out the adults. It’s not super funny, but it is adorable to see parents be dorky in an attempt at something while their house is in an earthquake every two seconds. It’s a shame, too, because the first film had wacky moments outside of the kid adventure with Moranis being wacky in searching for the kids even if his neighbor hated it. Here he is going through the motion with no natural highlights for him. Moranis is a legitimate star and funny person when allowed to be, so to see him here in “paycheck mode” is a shame.
A lot of people are wasted in this, for that matter. Lloyd Bridges, who comes in later as Mr. Sterling, the head of the lab, is also given nothing besides acting more as a general than an actual CEO. The villain in the film is also forgettable to the point I had to google the character and actor (John Shea as Dr. Charles Hendrickson). I watched the movie the day before writing this, proving how forgettable that character is. The Americans and Felicity’s Keri Russell makes her film debut here and is one of the few given actual work to do. She was on the rebooted Mickey Mouse Club, and I would be lying if I said she wasn’t a childhood crush. Russell is on my personal list of forever crushes, too, for the sheer fact that Russell rules as a person. She’s thrilled to be in this movie, seems invested in what’s happening, and is an excellent partner-in-crime for Nick. It’s adorable all around.
The other main thing about this film is that it was initially adapted from a script not intended as a sequel for Honey, I Shrunk the Kids but as a standalone film. Repurposing the plot for a sequel is noticeable. It adds to the humor not being on par with the first because it seems like another movie. Moving to Las Vegas, Nevada, appears out of the realm for Szalinski, and they barely explain why they even moved. Amy being sent off to college in the first five minutes feels like a producer note saying, “We have nothing for this character, so ditch her.” There’s little use for the invention aspect outside of the first ten minutes. Also, the way the film is shot looks worse than in the first film. Maybe it was the film stock, the overly brown set design, or a lousy transfer on Disney+, but it does not look great at times. I sure hope it’s the latter because recalling watching this as a kid, and it did not look this bad.
Honey, I Blew Up the Kid expands on the spectacle while shrinking down on comedy and anything new. It’s generic as they come with a premise that could have been done better if it had the Szalinskis in mind from the get-go. Despite some fun visuals and gags, it falters as a memorable follow-up to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. The direct-to-video Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves is way more memorable in retrospect. The film is a sequel that is a definition of style over substance.
Revue Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Next time, pigs can fly in the sky in Hayao Miyazaki’s Porco Rosso.