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MOVIE REVIEWS : ‘Honey, I Blew Up the Kid’ an Experiment in Excess

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Nothing can be more galling than elephantine whimsy--and “Honey, I Blew Up the Kid” (citywide) offers up what seems like several tons of kitschy kootchie-koo. A follow-up to the 1989 Disney studio hit “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” its plot may be an ultimate example of wretched excess: A 112-foot-high, 2-year-old boy marches on Las Vegas while his parents try desperately to save him from the local military-industrial complex.

Did we say excess? “Honey, I Blew Up the Kid” gives us a tot as big as a casino; 100-pound peppermint drops, huggy-bunny dolls the size of dinosaurs and massed helicopter attacks on the giggling Godzilla-baby.

Did we say wretched? Gags explode like stink bombs and dozens of maddeningly idiotic extras run around hysterically, tripping over Junior’s firehose-size shoelaces, no matter where he clumps down his tank-size feet. As an entertainment, this film is completely outclassed by the new Disney cartoon on the bill: “Off His Rockers”

“Honey, I Blew Up the Kid” has a different director, Randal Kleiser, and writers--the tag-team of Thom Eberhardt and Peter Elbling & Gary Goodrow--from its predecessor. But it continues the hapless adventurers of the Szalinski clan: nerdy inventor Wayne (Rick Moranis), apple-cheeked mom Diane (Marcia Strassman), plucky kids Nick and Amy (Robert Oliveri and Amy O’Neill) and the new kid, Adam (Daniel and Joshua Shalikar).

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It’s no improvement. Even if you didn’t much like “Honey, I Shrunk"--a movie that had a better script than this one, but worse acting--it’s easy to see why it tickled the public. There was slick fun to the overscaled effects, the polyurethane foam sculptures of giant Cheerios and cookies, the buffalo-size ants and helicopter-size bees. The story of a micro-size quartet, shrunk by a suburban dad scientist’s ultra-gizmo and battling their way through the monstro-jungle of their own back yard, had the same appeal that “The Incredible Shrinking Man” had. It made an exotic adventure out of the everyday.

But how common--or interesting--is a nightmare about a giant baby? There’s a reason why ‘50s audiences were more enthralled by giant insects than giant humans, or why “The Incredible Shrinking Man” became a genuine cult movie and “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman” and “The Amazing Colossal Man"--whose protagonist also marched on Vegas--are only “camp classics,” relished for their silliness. It’s always easier to identify with overpowered protagonists than gigantic ones.

In the early part of “Honey, I Blew Up,” the writers sketch Wayne’s new circumstances: He is the pawn of evil corporate interests, trying to steal his new inventions. Then, they chronicle the difficulties of rapid infant growth; then they send Adam to Vegas. But their ingenuity, never high, starts to crack in the midsection. Most of the scenes involve the Szalinski family running around in circles, shrieking, giggling and gesticulating, while snoopy neighbors congregate on their lawn to try to peep through windows. By the end, invention has shriveled completely: Monstro-kid Adam picks up cars and goes goo-goo, sticks his brother and baby-sitter in his pocket, heaves his boulder-sized peppermint drops and tries to play riffs on a huge neon Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign.

These are hardly world-class gags, the special effects are variable, the ending a truly dubious paean to motherhood. We don’t know why Big Baby Adam is heading toward Vegas, what he eats or why he’s so burblingly cheerful in the face of such rapid, puzzling changes. Certainly Moranis, Strassman, Lloyd Bridges, John Shea and the others have every reason to be distressed. If the first movie’s acting style strongly suggested a series of kitchen cleanser commercials laid end to end, this sequel now suggests that only marginally more sophisticated form: breakfast cereal commercials.

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There’s one funny verbal joke in the entire film: Wayne trying to explain Adam’s booming baby-talk, by describing him as a visiting Yugoslavian. Is Kleiser aware of the small, but vocal, Randal Kleiser cult in Yugoslavia, spurred by “Grease” in the late 1970s? Probably not. And “Honey, I Blew Up the Kid” (MPAA-rated PG) probably won’t start another one--in Belgrade or Burbank. It’s one more example of minuscule ideas inflated to preposterous proportions: An Attack of the 50-Foot Marketing Hook.

‘Honey, I Blew Up the Kid’

Rick Moranis: Wayne Szalinski

Marcia Strassman: Diane Szalinski

Daniel & Joshua Shalikar: Adam Szalinski

Lloyd Bridges: Clifford Sterling

A Walt Disney Pictures presentation of an Edward S. Feldman production, presented in association with Touchwood Pacific Partners I. Director Randal Kleiser. Producers Dawn Steel, Edward S. Feldman. Executive producers Albert Band, Staurt Gordon. Screenplay by Thom Eberhardt, Peter Elbling, Gary Goodrow. Cinematographer John Hora. Editor Michael A. Stevenson. Costumes Tom Bronson. Music Bruce Broughton. Production design Leslie Dilley. Art director Ed Verreaux. Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes.

MPAA-rated PG.

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