"No, no, no, no - please, make it stop!" I chanted in my head the entire first half of the movie. If I am not mistaken, hasn't this movie been made before? Oh, yeah - it was called Jumanji. Zathura can be divide into two parts. The first half was horrifically disappointing. The two boys Danny (played by Johan Bobo) and Walter (played by Josh Hucherson) played a duet for the first half of the movie. There were minor cameos from the father and older, self absorbed sister (I will talk about this more later). The chemistry between the two children was stale at best and the mechanical dialogue retarded the movie's progression. Granted, two adult actors would have a hard time selling this movie, but that is not a justification.
The youngest child miraculously discovers an old game and the creepily cliche basement. The two start the game and all of the sudden - NO! - there are in space. Each turns jettisons the duo further and further into space. On each turn the player gets a card that warns of the tragict danger to come (similar to the mystic orb in the middle of the Jumanji playing board.) During the first turn, the boys are threatened with a meteor shower and wake their sleeping sister. With the introduction of a new character, I was almost revised out of my boredom induced comatose. The sister was a dreadful character but she played the bitchy adolescent well. Then,to my dismay, the next spin of the wheel evoked chronically frozen sleep on the new, and much needed, character (the sister). NOTE: please excuse the following tangential moment. I am so sick and tired of the media and the population sexualizing our young people. In all honesty, I would not mind a 15 year on the big screen wearing short boxer shorts, and a tight small top (by the way that is was the older sister was wearing throughout most of the movie)if the representation was a reflection of what teenage girls really wear. The majority of the teenagers I know and interact with do not wear such revealing clothing. Too, the writers made the female teen and arrogant, self absorbed, lazy snit of person. No wonder there is such a wide age gap in this country. Adults have no reason to assume that teens in reality are not the same as teens in the media when their only definition of adolescent behavior is what they see in the media . Back to the movie....
Finally, the last half of the movie starts to pick up so steam. The game produces an astronaut and the older sister awakens out of her frosty slumber. There were some great suspenseful moments. However, the lizard aliens that attacked the group were ridiculously cheesy. If you liked the movie Jumanji (which I did) then you will hate this movie because it is just a cheaper, watered down version.
I think it is unfair to call this movie a rip-off of Jumangi Van Allsburg wrote "Zathura" as a sequel to "Jumangi." And I wholeheartedly disagree with you about "Jumangi" being a better movie. "Jumangi" was a great book that was turned into a horrible movie filled with superfluous story that made little sense and was merely there to serve the poorly crafted CGI. That movie was barely more than a showcase for early computer animated characters.
"Zathura," on the other hand, was much truer to the spirit of the books. The special effects are meant to look slightly off to show us that this is all fantasy. I liked Favreau's use of old-school effects. I think it added a lot to the charm of the movie.
And while you bring up some interesting points in your tangent, I don't know how much I can agree with you there either. While I know many teens who are not like the sister in the movie, I know just as many who are exactly like that. And although a teen girl may not act like that all the time, as a brother, I can attest to the fact that they often treat their brothers that way regardless of how they may conduct themselves in public.