Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Is About Bigger Things Than I Remembered

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was the first movie I ever saw in a theater. I somehow got invited to another kid’s birthday party, and I was delighted to go. None of my brothers or sisters had seen it yet, so I was going to be the first. I was just a small child when I saw it, and I had never experienced such a big-screen adventure. Of course, being a child, I didn’t pick up on all the subtle nuances the film had to offer.

As a grownup, I just revisited it with my own children, and I found myself absolutely loving every second of the film. I even appreciated all of the big subjects the film delves into.

I’d like to share what I saw on my most-recent viewing of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids to explain why I love this movie.

Learning to Care About Something Bigger Than Yourself

This movie is about four neighbor kids, Amy and Nick Szalinski and Russ and Ron Thompson, who accidentally get shrunk to a tiny size and have to cross the Szalinskis’ front lawn to make it to their house.

A big part of the movie is a coming-of-age story. And it’s not just the two older teens who participate. Everyone has something to learn. I especially love Ron’s transformation over the course of the film. He starts as a bit of a smart aleck, getting under everyone else’s skin all the time. And he’s really the lynchpin of the plot because it’s his baseball that sets everything into motion.

I admit I liked him the least of all the kids the first time I saw this movie. But this time around, his story resonated with something inside me. I don’t have much in common with him, but I love the way he begins to respect others and even take orders as the film goes on. And he really shines when he befriends a baby ant.

Ron names him Antie, and he quickly learns to love that little guy. Suddenly, he cares about someone more than himself, which makes it all the more tragic when a scorpion attacks the children while they’re going to sleep at night. Ron gets stuck and is about to be killed by the scorpion when Antie bravely defends him and gets pierced by the scorpion’s stinger.

The kids manage to fight the scorpion off, and then they turn to poor Antie who lays dying. Amy says, “He looks hurt,” and Ron reacts with the most heartbreaking “No” of all time. Then he pets the ant and says in disbelief, “You saved my life.” He tries to hope for the best, but Antie soon dies, and there’s nothing any of them can do. All four of them are sad, but Ron is the only one who breaks down in tears over the loss of his friend. His arc is complete. He’s learned what it means to care about someone else more than yourself and to lose a loved one. And he learned all that from a loyal little ant.

I remembered being sad about Antie dying the first time I saw the movie, but this time it hit me much harder. Because I care so much more about Ron’s character, and I see how important this moment is to his development.

Marital Issues

That previous section was really heavy and long. I’ll try to do a better job being brief with the rest of these. Of course I had to pick marital issues for the follow-up. I had forgotten how on-the-ropes Wayne and Diane Szalinski’s marriage was at the start of this movie. Wayne is kind of an absent-minded professor-type guy. He isn’t maliciously neglectful or anything like that. He’s just thoughtless and clueless when it comes to his family.

His wife is beginning to feel estranged from him because he’s always working on a crazy shrinking machine that has yet to work. And when it does, it puts their children in mortal danger. I love all of the Szalinski husband and wife’s interactions. There’s always love between them hidden beneath the surface.

Once they both figure out what is going on and why their children are missing, they unite their efforts to find them and return them to their normal size. I love how they both worry in their own ways. Wayne notes that the Thompson kids are tough enough to help their softer kids survive the dangers, while Diane hopes her teenage daughter behaves herself with hunky Russ at night.

The thing that finally heals their marriage is when Diane, who has spent a sleepless night worrying about her babies, goes upstairs to find her husband asleep at his workstation. He spent all night repairing the shrinking machine after he broke it in a fit of anger the previous day, and he kept working until he finally collapsed from exhaustion. She just gazes admiringly at him and says, “I love you, Wayne Szalinski.”

A Husband’s Role

Wives love admiring their husbands, and husbands love serving their wives. I love how Wayne typifies a great husband and father in this film. He starts out obsessed with solving a problem to the detriment of his family. He feels like he’s so close to his goal, and so he forgets about everything else and becomes laser-focused on what he’s working on. Which just so happens to be a laser.

But once he puts the pieces together about what he’s done, he accepts full responsibility for the problem and promises to do better. His focus becomes finding his lost children. He literally spends the rest of the movie looking through magnifying glasses and fixing the shrinking machine in order to bring his children home.

It just goes to show what a good husband and father does. Yes, as men, it’s important to bring home the bacon and provide the necessities for our families. But it’s equally as important not to forget why we do those things. We love those people we’re dedicating our lives to. By the end of the film, Wayne finally remembers his true calling isn’t just to be a great inventor but to also be the best dad he can be.

Dealing with the Neighbors

Big Russ and Mae Thompson play a big part in this movie. As a grownup, I understand now that we don’t always live next to our best friends. There can be noise issues and other strange habits that can make neighbors dislike each other. I absolutely love all of the odd looks the Thompsons give the Szalinskis throughout the film. They’re not friends, which makes it all the more awkward for Wayne and Diane to come clean to them about what happened to their kids.

The Thompsons fear that their two sons may have run away. So when the Szalinskis tell them that their kids have actually been miniaturized, they don’t believe it at first. That leads to one of my favorite scenes in the movie. Mr. Thompson really shows how much he cares about his kids when he threatens to hurt Wayne if he had anything to do with their disappearance.

He hasn’t been the most-attentive father in the world, which is something he actually has in common with Wayne. But the possibility of losing his sons makes him see things more clearly. At the end of the film, he has realized that his sons need his love more than his discipline to motivate them to be happy in life.

The last scene in the movie really summarizes how much the two families have grown over the course of the film. Wayne and Big Russ are able to shake hands, and their families share the most incredible Thanksgiving dinner in the history of ever. Their children’s adventure together has brought them together so that they’re both neighbors and friends now.

Feeling Small and Belittled

It’s hard enough going through puberty and feeling like an outcast at school or elsewhere. But to feel belittled at home just amplifies the angst to a whole new level. As a father of several children approaching their teen years, I can appreciate Little Russ’s relationship with his father quite a bit better. He’s afraid of talking to his dad about his fears because he expects to be misunderstood and talked down to instead of lifted up or cared for.

And his fears get taken to a whole new level when he becomes the size of a flea. Now he doesn’t just feel small and insignificant, but he actually is small and insignificant. I love how his father embraces him at the end of the film when he and the other children are re-enlarged. He worries that his dad is still upset about him quitting the football team. But his dad answers perfectly, saying, “I don’t care about the team; I care about you! I’m proud of you.” Those are the words every burgeoning young man needs to hear from his father.

That Guy!

I’m done with the deep themes of family and responsibility. Now it’s time for a little fun. I was pleasantly surprised to see That Guy in this movie. Who is That Guy, you may ask? A valid question. It’s Mark L. Taylor! He’s Mr. Fulton in High School Musical 2 and one of the government guys in another movie about shrinking called Innerspace. He’s the kind of guy who I can never remember his name, but I always remember his face.

He’s never the star of anything, but he’s always a memorable presence. He has a tiny one-scene basically cameo in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, but he manages to steal the scene going toe to toe with the most-energetic character in the movie, Mr. Thompson. I just love That Guy, and it’s so fun to me that he’s in two of the biggest movies about miniaturization pre-Ant-Man.

The Start of a Beautiful Friendship

I’ll finish off by pointing out that this was the first movie that director Joe Johnston did with the late great composer James Horner. He went on to do a few more excellent films aided by Horner’s beautiful music, most notably The Rocketeer and Jumanji.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was a fantastic directorial debut for Johnston. And it is an interesting bridge between Horner’s work on films like An American Tail and Willow and his later work on The Rocketeer. There are echoes of themes from all of those movies in many of this film’s tracks. That’s not to say there’s nothing original in this score. I love the whimsical-yet-mechanical main theme that seems to be Wayne Szalinski’s signature piece.

I just love that this film was the beginning of a great career for Johnston and the continuation of Horner’s already-brilliant career. These two great minds got to join forces and create great art several times as a result of this film’s success.

Big Finale

Like the kids at the end of the movie, this article has gotten quite big. I guess I had a lot to say about Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. It’s definitely a movie worth revisiting. There’s a lot to love about it, and I think you’ll be as delighted as I’ve been in revisiting it after many years.

This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.

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About Robert Lockard, the Deja Reviewer

Robert Lockard has been a lover of writing since he was very young. He studied public relations in college, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in 2006. His skills and knowledge have helped him to become a sought-after copywriter in the business world. He has written blogs, articles, and Web content on subjects such as real estate, online marketing and inventory management. His talent for making even boring topics interesting to read about has come in handy. But what he really loves to write about is movies. His favorite movies include: Fiddler on the Roof, Superman: The Movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Back to the Future, Beauty and the Beast, The Fugitive, The Incredibles, and The Dark Knight. Check out his website: Deja Reviewer. Robert lives in Utah with his wife and four children. He loves running, biking, reading, and watching movies with his family.
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