By Richard Pulfer

Yes, “Zathura” does share a great deal in common with “Jumanji.”

In both movies, the events of a board game have larger-than-life consequences in the real world. But to call “Zathura” “Jumanji in Space” greatly overlooks the creativity used in making the mythology and characters surrounding the “Zathura.” And while many are quick to point out the obvious similarities between the two, few have pointed out the actual reason for the obvious similarities, as both movies are based on books by Chris Van Allsburg.

As with “Jumanji,” the central characters of “Zathura” are siblings – in this case Walter (Josh Hutcherson) and his younger brother Danny (Jonah Bobo), who are two very different kids. Left home while their father (Tim Robbins) is at work, their teenage sister Lisa (Kristen Stewart) is charged with keeping an eye on them, but is little help as she locks herself in her room.

Danny stumbles upon the space-age sci-fi adventure game “Zathura,” which triggers a meteor shower and launches their home into outer space. Now Danny and Walter have to complete the game and reach the enigmatic black planet “Zathura” in order to return home.

The movie itself is a mix of “Forbidden Planet” and “Buck Rogers.” Danny and Walter are likeable enough, although there are a few times in the film where their quarrels become tiresome. By then, the quarreling is pushed to the side by the arrival of the Astronaut (Dax Shepard), a sarcastic space traveler with a secret. With the Astronaut’s help, Danny and Walter have a better chance of fending off whatever comes out of the game, but his presence further complicates the brothers’ already rocky relationship.

The only obvious complaint of the narrative is the lack of any character development for Lisa. While she does have the disadvantage of spending the first half of the movie in cryogenic sleep, her character should at least be developed and likeable like Walter and Danny. There are, after all, only four characters in the story, and spending a little time developing each of them shouldn’t be a problem.

“Zathura” is a suspenseful thrill ride containing a twist that just might outmaneuver even fans of the original “Jumanji.” But it’s the central story of brotherhood which really sets the movie apart from most children’s films out there. Ultimately, “Zathura” is a rocket-powered exploration of the ties that bind.