The first part of this film is the sad story of how divorced Dad Tim Robbins copes with his three bratty kids (He does commendably, better than I would.) The second part disposes of Robbins and takes a turn into pure ridiculousness, as his two sons Walter and Danny (played sloppily by Josh Hutcherson and Jonah Bobo) play a mysterious board game with magical properties (a la “Jumanji”), which proves to have unforeseen consequences.
The acting, save for Robbins’, is really bad, not only from Hutcherson and Bobo but also from Kristen Stewart, who plays the completely useless, gape-mouthed character of the boys’ older sister, and Dax Shepard as the astronaut who lands on their doorstep when — surprise! — the board game sends the little losers into deep space. The script is not much better, providing entertainment that is mediocre at best for anyone over the age of twelve.
Worse is the unlikablity of the characters, particularly Walter (Josh Hutcherson), a vile little twit who has a thoroughly unconvincing road to Damascus halfway through, becoming a better brother to little Danny. Only slightly better than Walter is Danny himself, annoyingly whiny and obnoxious.
Stewart fails to provide steady support as Lisa, while Shepard reads his lines like a man reading the instructions on a container of boxed macaroni and cheese. A twist occurs in the last act that proves to be moderately interesting, if underwhelming, but by that point it is too late to care.
My younger sister (age nine) liked this, though even she had to admit that the acting was pretty piss-poor. Maybe your younger kids will like this too, even the older ones if they lower their standards enough. But this is not imbued with family magic like “Up,” “Tangled,” or “Spirited Away,” and in this writer’s opinion is only worth watching if all your other DVDs are suddenly destroyed in a fire or sucked into a black hole. Avoid.