First things first: Tummy Trouble, the new Roger Rabbit cartoon that precedes Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, is both good and original. Unfortunately, what’s good about it is not original, and what’s original about it is not good. Roger Rabbit is a grating imitation of a certain other Oscar-winning toon. His nemesis, Baby Herman, is just a setup for a stale gag — the cuddly infant is really a guttermouth midget off camera. The only character with any character is Droopy Dog, and he’s been recycled from a 1947 cartoon.
Tummy Trouble proves that special effects are nothing special unless they serve a larger fantasy. Joe Johnston, the director of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, knows what fantasy is about. The creatures he has designed (Yoda and the Ewoks for the Star Wars movies) are people and not just neat machines. That same combination of technical wizardry and human warmth helped Honey earn $130 million, outlast Indiana Jones and Ghostbusters II at the box office last summer, and make almost every critic’s top 10 list last year.
The effects are terrifically convincing: The quarter-inch kids ride bees, battle scorpions, are sucked into a lawn mower, and dumped in a 16,000-gallon bowl of Cheerios made from painted inner tubes. Their characters are also cleverly constructed — satiric without being shrill, sweet without being treacly.
The shrinkage is less sensational on the home screen than it was on the big screen. Even so, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids remains big fun. B+