Created by the same author as 1995's hit "Jumanji," "Zathura" tells the story of brothers who find a galactic board game that sends them on an out-of-this-world adventure.
"This movie was totally special effects to the max. I mean, the special effects dial was about to bust as far as how many there were," one of the film's two young stars, Josh Hutcherson, told FOX News.
"You're really freaked out," added director Jon Favreau.
For Favreau, making sure the film got a family-friendly PG rating was important professionally and personally.
"The kids movies aren't very good, so the kids end up watching movies that are more geared toward adults. My 4-year-old wants to see 'Spider-Man.' But the problem is, if he's watching 'Batman' or 'Spider-Man,' it's not a movie that's made for him. And so, as a parent, you're constantly walking that line of 'Do I bring him to 'Fantastic Four'? Do I bring him to this?'" Favreau said.
In the movie, 10-year-old Walter (Hutcherson) and 6-year-old Danny (Jonah Bobo) are at that perpetually bickering phase brothers often go through. Walter's good at sports and has a wisenheimer attitude toward his little brother, while Danny's a klutz with a dreamy nature.
When their divorced dad (Tim Robbins) leaves the boys in the neglectful care of their teen sister (Kristen Stewart) while he runs an errand, Danny stumbles on a dusty board game, Zathura, left by a previous resident of their big, creaky house.
When Danny takes a turn on the game board, the brothers find themselves and their house hurled into space and threatened by meteor showers, a black hole, a deranged robot and spaceships loaded with carnivorous reptiles called Zorgons.
Guided by an astronaut (Dax Shepard) who drops in to help (and conveniently explain some of the rules), the brothers find that whatever action transpires on the game board comes to pass in real life.
AP movie writer David German enjoyed the film, giving it two and a half stars out of four.
"You could do a lot worse than take the kids to see this spunky, good-natured family flick that offers plenty of pyrotechnics and a refreshing dynamic of brotherly love-hate from the movie's two endearing child leads ... a brisk pace, action and humor will appeal to all ages," he wrote.
FOX News' Mike Waco and Adam Housley contributed to this report.