Yes, it does have the same basic premise as Jumanji (both books were written by the same guy, after all!)-- board game wreaks havoc on innocent children who happen to have a few problems other than an insane board game. But Zathura is about 100 times better. First of all, the characters aren't overshadowed by 1) huge special effects and 2)big name actors who take over the movie. This is a movie with heart, and a great way to start the holiday season, I might add. Remember how surprisingly good the fun, holiday movie Elf was? This is like that, and both are directed by Jon Favreau. This film does a marvelous job of making an implausible situation seem plausible, while giving the characters some realness.
Two young boys, Walter (age 10) and Danny (age 6) are constantly fighting. Danny just wants someone to play with. Walter could care less. Their father (played by Tim Robbins) is newly divorced, which only adds to this family's stress. There's also an older sister, Lisa, who sleeps until 2 pm and doesn't care about anyone but herself. When Danny finds a mysterious game in the basement called Zathura, he begs Walter to play. Walter doesn't feel like it, so Danny begins to play anyway. On his first spin, the game spits out a card that reads, "Meteor Shower. Take evasive action." Danny can't really read, and it's not until their living room is being pelleted with meteors that the boys take evasive action. Danny runs in circles screaming. Eventually, when the house if floating in the middle of space, they rescue a stranded astronaut (played wonderfully by Dax Shephard!), who reveals that he also once played the game and that's why he's a stranded astronaut. There's actually a twist in this movie about the astronaut, which I totally didn't see coming. I had to explain it to my little cousins because they didn't really get it, but they still thought it was cool.
In the words of a three year old movie critic prodigy, this movie is "really really cool, kinda scary, but really cool." She even said it was better than Jumanji! And if you can't take my word for it, take hers. This is a very sweet movie that explores not only the far reaches of space, but the relationship that siblings have with one another. Very good and PERFECT for kids (except a couple swear words, nothing to really worry about though), I HIGHLY HIGHLY RECOMMEND this movie!!