The Shrunken City (1998)
AKA Shandar: The Shrunken City
Starring Michael Malota, Agnes Bruckner, Jules Mandel, Steve Valentine, Ray Laska, Dorina Lazar, Christopher Landry, Lula Malota, Andreea Macelaru, Ion Haiduc
Directed by Ted Nicolaou
Expectations: Moderate, the kids movies are always iffy.
On the general scale:
On the B-Movie scale:
I’ve put off writing this review for the last hour or so after the movie had ended. Usually I start right away, eager to blast out my thoughts into some form of a rough draft. Whenever I hesitate, it’s usually a bad sign. In this particular case, it’s a sign of a film that has left me rather indifferent, but I’ll try to make the best of it. It’s odd too, because I enjoyed The Shrunken City, or Shandar – The Shrunken City! if you’re going by its most recent title (and what it’s known by at a Redbox near you).
Shandar is about the mystical city of Shandar that was shrunken into a glass bottle as a last-ditch effort to save it from the destructive forces of the evil Ood. As a sidenote, has there ever been a shittier name for a villainous force? The Ood? I suppose I could call them the El Ooderino, but they’re obviously into the whole brevity thing so I won’t. Anyway, the city is shrunken and then 26,000 years and a dimensional journey later, it is unearthed by our 13-year-old heroes, George and Lori. The only problem is that by unearthing it, they have also broken its protective shield and now the Ood are back to finally wipe out that pesky city of Shandar. Boy, these guys really know how to hold a grudge. You’d think after 26,000 years they’d let it go.
Most of the film is our kid heroes running away from the villains who are able to instantaneously assume the look of average Earth-dwellers. This leads to many foot and car chases, which are fun but lack any real sense of danger or tension. We’re not here for that, though, so as long as they’re enjoyable I don’t care. And they most definitely are. One of these foot chases near the end occurs within a coffee factory. Watch as the shrunken city makes its way down the conveyor belts! In one shot it’s clearly on the belt with packaged beans that are presumably soon to be boxed, and in the next shot it’s on one with loose beans. Boy, these guys really need to get their workflow worked out. Oh, but maybe they’re taking their competition’s packaged beans and then re-packing them for themselves, that would explain it! After a couple more conveyor shifts, the city does get boxed and then within a matter of a single cut, the box has been moved and placed high atop a stack in a warehouse. I know shit moves fast in the world of coffee factories, but I had no idea they were so efficient. Must be all the coffee, keeps everyone active.
My favorite scenes are held within the shrunken city of Shandar when the kids get shrunken down by mistake. In these scenes, director Ted Nicolaou’s eye for atmosphere and shot composition is on full display, reminding me immensely of his excellent work on the Subspecies series, and Vampire Journals in particular. The scenes are especially well-shot, with golden hues coloring the sets and light streaming onto the actors in the most dramatic way possible. Unfortunately, most of the movie was shot at random locations around Romania, so the cinematography in the rest of the film definitely leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, that would be an apt description of the whole film, really.
Except, of course, when it comes to the villains rolling hard in a Ford Aerostar. As a teenager, my buddy had a Ford Aerostar and we had a lot of good times in it. Regardless of these experiences, the Ford Aerostar was always the butt of jokes because, well, it’s a Ford Aerostar. So when the kids in the movie popped the villains’ tire with a rake, and the villains hijacked a Ford Aerostar, my heart leapt. Finally, the Aerostar’s true destiny will become manifest, and it will forever be known as the bringer of pain and fear. Or not. Anyway, they did teach me one thing that I never considered in all my times in the luscious interior of the Aerostar. The little side windows are perfect for hanging your arm and raygun out of, just in case a little brat holding your entire civilization’s desires happens to run by. Ford Aerostar: Family Transportation & Personal Mobile Fortress, Ford really missed the beat on that ad campaign.
Shandar isn’t all that great, but for a Full Moon kids movie, it was pretty enjoyable. I fell asleep before it ended, which I guess says a lot for a 79 minute film, but I really did get a kick out of a lot of what was going on. If you’re a pre-teen kid that has a hankerin’ for a 90s B-Movie, it will definitely satiate your urges, but I think most everyone else will be disappointed.
I couldn’t find an embeddable trailer, so go here to watch it on the Redbox website.
Next time I’ll be checking out the David DeCoteau flick that I’m pretty sure is a Scream rip-off, Final Stab from 2001!