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Things only adults notice in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

In Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis) is the quintessential mad scientist replete with a laser laboratory in his attic — except Wayne is also a husband and father of two whose preoccupation with work has helped create a chaotic home life. Wayne thinks he's found the formula to shrink things to a fraction of their size, but his laser doesn't seem to agree. His wife Diane (Marcia Strassman) has one foot out the door, as his daughter Amy (Amy O'Neill) tries to keep things together while also taking care of her nerdy little brother Nick (Robert Oliveri) and managing her social life at the mall. 

After a failed attempt at shrinking an apple, Wayne has a disastrous presentation at his university. But little does Wayne know that while he's at work, the Szalinskys' neighbor Ron Thompson (Jared Rushton) hits a baseball through the attic lab's window, activating the machine and shrinking Ron and Nick. Shortly after, Ron's older brother Little Russ (Thomas Wilson Brown) and Amy meet the same fate, finding themselves pea-sized and accidentally thrown out with the trash. 

Everyone can see that their adventure in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is wild, sometimes scary, and absolutely wonderful. But there are some things tucked away in the movie that are for grown-ups only. Here are the things that only adults notice in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

The events in the animated opening credits don't happen in the movie

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids opens with a delightful (and disturbing) animated sequence featuring a redheaded girl and her younger freckle-faced brother after they've been shrunk in their home. In their teeny tiny state, they're chased by a number of everyday things that have suddenly turned rather menacing now that the children are so small. A vacuum cleaner seems to have a mouth that wants to eat them, a fan flings them across the room, a huge fly looks at the brother like he's a tasty treat, and a flyswatter almost takes them both out before he finds himself in a heating toaster. 

The sister does a turn on the family's record player, while a pencil sharpener, toaster, typewriter, and even a stamp prove almost fatal for the siblings. They end up in an envelope in the mailbox, being sent to parts unknown. While this would have been a super cool movie on its own, none of this happens in the movie. The closest we get in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is the Szalinskis' dog Quark helping the four miniature youngsters back into their kitchen.

Wayne Szalinski has an unprotected laser in his attic

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is fully predicated on the existence of a laser that shrinks kids so they can have an adventure in their own backyard. But only adults will notice just exactly how dangerous Wayne's machine is. Their neo-Victorian house is fully built of wood, the attic comprised of exposed beams, and yet Wayne is welding and shooting sparks all over the place up there without any protection other than the occasional face mask. Catching the house on fire is a legitimate concern, and so is radiation from the laser that has no containment whatsoever. When Wayne tries to shrink an apple with the beam, it blows up in his face — and he's wearing only his glasses. He should have had third degree burns after that small explosion. 

This is a public health hazard for the entire neighborhood, not just for Wayne's family. Later, when Wayne tests the machine on their neighbor Big Russ Thompson (Matt Frewer), it does work. But what a huge risk to take. And what about potential side effects — not only from the radiation, but the shrinking process itself? At the end of the movie, the Szalinskis and Thompsons eat a huge turkey that Wayne processed through his machine. Is that even safe? All of this should have taken place in a controlled laboratory setting, not an attic in a residential neighborhood.

Wayne and Diane Szalinsky are having severe marital problems

It's certainly clear to everyone that Wayne and Diane are going through a rough patch. At the start of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Diane has been staying at her mother's house after she and Wayne got into a fight, and she's been gone so much that her neighbor Mae Thompson (Kristine Sutherland) comments on her absence. But what adults in particular will notice is just how bad Wayne and Diane's marriage problems are. Diane is openly dismissive of her husband's project, and even though she has good reason — he hasn't made it work and now he's the laughingstock of the university — it's still rather ugly to see. 

But Diane isn't fully to blame. Wayne can't manage to do simple things like wash dishes or even small bits of tidying up. Worse, Diane has put her eldest daughter in a surrogate mother role as Amy tries to cook and clean as well as mind her little brother and absentminded father. Seeing a teen in her mother's role is particularly creepy when watching Honey, I Shrunk the Kids through an adult gaze. 

The Thompsons packing for their weekend trip is absurd

The Szalinskis' neighbors the Thompsons are as strange as the Szalinskis, but in a completely different way. As the Thompsons are loading up their RV for a short fishing trip Big Russ has been looking forward to for ages (his family isn't as excited at all), only adults will notice how bizarrely the Thompsons are packing for just a few days away. The pure volume of fishing gear is immense by itself, but when you add in all the other stuff they're bringing along, it gets kind of ridiculous. 

They have dozens of frozen meals, which they also leave sitting outside in the yard for a really long time. The Thompsons also pack a VCR, a television, a food processor, golf clubs, a microwave, vacuum cleaner, hula hoop, and skis along with a whole lot more. Mae alone has three bulging suitcases she loads into the RV. Their camper isn't at all that big either, especially not by today's standards. How do they fit all that stuff plus plan to fit four grown people in there too? Only adults will be concerned with these over-the-top logistics.

Complicated relationships between Russ Thompson and his sons

Watching Honey, I Shrunk the Kids as a kid, the conflicts between Big Russ Thompson and his sons seem straightforward. Big Russ is kind of a jerk, and his sons respond accordingly. But watching the movie as an adult, you notice that Big Russ has serious control issues that likely stem from some event in the past (and maybe his own troubled relationship with his father) that cause him to act out and become overbearing and demanding. While Big Russ takes a few beats to wonder what he's doing wrong with his eldest son — Little Russ doesn't want to do the necessary things like weight lift and play football to "be a man" — it never occurs to him to simply listen to Little Russ and guide him, rather than boss him around. 

On the other hand, Russ's younger son Ron adores his father even though his dad is openly mean to him. Ron copies him down to his wardrobe and red hat, but Big Russ is not even a little interested in engaging with that relationship. He'd rather complain and focus on the relationship that is strained instead of the one Ron is eagerly waiting to develop. As an adult, seeing this kind of dynamic is quietly heartbreaking, especially since Little Russ seems to be creative and sensitive, and his father is trying to encourage him to follow in his toxically masculine footsteps.

The neighbor kid Tommy gets overly stoked about the lawn mower

While Amy is tasked with doing all the "mom" chores inside the house like mopping and cleaning the kitchen, Nicky is only asked to mow the back lawn. But even this is too much work for him — he brings over another one of his neighbors, Tommy Pervis (Carl Steven), and pulls a Tom Sawyer, tricking Tommy into mowing the lawn for him. How? Because the Szalinskis' lawn mower has been upgraded by Wayne and Nicky; now it's remote control operated. Ah, the 1980s, when the height of technological sophistication was having a remote-controlled anything. 

This moment will seem strange to modern kids who are likely surrounded by smartphones, tablets, laptops, and voice-controlled gadgets that make the Szalinskis' mower look like a ginormous clunky mess. But back in the '80s a mower like Wayne's would have been an incredible privilege. Some folks were still using manual push mowers on the regular back then — something only older folks would notice in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

Even shrunk, the kids aren't that far from the house

After the four kids are accidentally miniaturized by Wayne's machine, they're swept up into Wayne's dustpan and thrown in the garbage. Back then, not every city required people to use garbage cans; often, people just put their trash bags on the curb for pickup, as Wayne does in the movie. And it's a sign of the times indeed that helps this story continue — if they'd been in a garbage can they may never have gotten out of there at all. 

As they emerge from the trash and take stock of where they are, Nick pulls out his still-working calculator (which shrunk along with them) and after quick math figures they're 3.2 miles from the house. It might sound like a lot, but it really isn't a big deal, even if the Szalinskis' yard is kind of jungle. It should have taken a couple of hours to get to the back stoop, even with all the detours. 

Also, once Diane and Wayne figure out what happened and start looking for the kids in the yard, the kids totally should have heard the parents calling their names — and seen those wildly bright flashlights.

Adults will notice famous quotes from old movies

When the shrunken kids peer out of the garbage bag at the expanse before them that used to simply be the Szalinskis' back yard, Amy says "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto." Nick retorts sarcastically, "I don't think we're in the food chain anymore, Dorothy." Adults will immediately recognize this bit of dialogue as being inspired by famous lines uttered in The Wizard of Oz, right after Dorothy realizes she's landed in a foreign land far from home. It's a fitting moment to mimic in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

Later on, as the kids try to whistle in order to get the Szalinskis' dog Quark to help them, Little Russ is embarrassed that he can't help because he doesn't know how. "You don't know how to whistle?" Amy teases him. "You just put your lips together and blow." Adult cinephiles will know this is a reference to Lauren Bacall's iconic double entendre in To Have and Have Not. Just like with the line inspired by The Wizard of Oz, this moment is delivered with perfect comedic timing in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

I hope your face ends up on a milk carton

Ron Thompson and Amy Szalinski have an immediately combative relationship, mostly because Ron is emulating his father's buffoonish bullheadedness and refuses to take instruction from a girl even though she's the eldest. During one of their vicious sparring matches when they trade insults back and forth touching on a number of different unsavory personal qualities the both of them demonstrate, Ron says something that would probably only shock the adults in the room. "I hope your face ends up on a milk carton!" he screams in rage at Amy. 

Young folks now probably don't know that once upon a time in America, when kids went missing their pictures were featured on milk cartons in the hopes this would help them be found. Sometimes the pictures would even be aged in case the child had been missing for some time. For Ron to say something so casually cruel during an era when every day a different kid's face was on a milk carton is rather dark for a movie ostensibly aimed at younger viewers.

How long has that Oreo been in the yard?

Once the kids are on their trek to the Szalinskis' back porch, it doesn't take long before things start to go even more pear-shaped. After falling into a flower, Nick gets picked up by a bumblebee and Little Russ jumps on board to save him. After their flight around the yard, Wayne accidentally turns on the sprinklers. Amy falls into a puddle and almost drowns, bringing some sobering moments to their adventure. 

After all this excitement the youngsters begin dreaming about the food they're most hungry for. Amy wants an ice cream sundae, Ron wants a corn dog, and serendipitously they come upon an Oreo cookie that's the size of a house. Since they're kids and starving, an enormous cookie is like a dream come true. But adults watching the movie may wonder exactly how long has that Oreo been rotting in the yard. It could have been there for a while... and the kids eat it anyway. Yuck.

Older viewers will recognize Mae Thompson

While Honey, I Shrunk the Kids does have a cast of well-known actors, including Rick Moranis and Matt Frewer, who audiences will recognize from many different movies and television shows, there's one special cast member lots of adults will remember fondly in particular. After playing Mae Thompson, Kristine Sutherland also played a mom somewhere else culturally significant — specifically on the beloved show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Another strange coincidence adults might notice is that the Thompsons' cat is called Spike, who was also a beloved character in Buffy. Weird, right? 

It gets downright Lynchian when Twin Peaks star Kimmy Robertson appears as Gloria Forrester, the free-spirited wife of Big Russ's fishing buddy Don (Mark L. Taylor) who sees Wayne "flying" through his backyard on a contraption helping him look for the kids. Watching well-known character actors when they were younger in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids adds a meaningful (and somewhat poignant) layer for the adults watching.

Big Russ has some serious personal problems he needs to address

Big Russ's toxic masculinity doesn't stop at how he treats his two sons. Ron and Little Russ are not home in time when Big Russ's fishing buddy Don arrives, rearing to go, so Big Russ elects not to tell Don that his kids are missing. Instead, bizarrely, he says that Mae is having problems with her "plumbing," an outdated euphemism for menstruation that only older adults will notice. Don gets angry, not understanding why someone on their period is a reason to cancel the trip. He probably would have understood if he knew the kids might be in danger, though.

After Don and Gloria leave, Big Russ flips his lid about the $80 deposit he had put down for the fishing trip. "It's NON-REFUNDABLE, Mae!" he shouts. Losing a modest $80 deposit is hardly a tragedy, even in 1989, and especially since the Thompsons appear to be faring much better financially than the Szalinskis. The bigger issue is that his children are missing, and he doesn't seem to know how to care.

Diane Szalinsky is a strange real estate agent

One of the reasons Diane says she needs time away from her chaotic home and absentminded husband is because as a real estate agent, she's trying to focus on selling a mansion she's about to show for the 12th time. When she comes home, it's with the good news that the Boorsteins did put an offer on it and the Szalinskis should soon be able to relax financially. But for some reason Diane doesn't give the Boorsteins their escrow papers on the spot to review and sign.

Instead, she left the documents in her briefcase and then entrusted Wayne to not only find the right ones, but also to give the papers to the Boorsteins when they stop by her house. This is odd behavior for a real estate agent. Why would she invite wealthy people who just bought a mansion from her to her home? Real estate agents have always been about image, arguably even more so in the '80s. Also, would Diane really risk such a big deal going bad if her husband can't get his act together and give them the right documents? To adults, this makes no sense.

Wouldn't Wayne need a new baseball to make the machine work again?

The tiny children finally make it back to the Szalinski house, mostly unscathed. Huzzah! But then Honey, I Shrunk the Kids begins a new comedy of errors as Wayne tries to fix his machine as well as figure out what made the darn thing work as it was supposed to in the first place. After a game of miniature charades, Nick informs him that Ron's baseball was the missing ingredient, with Wayne finally understanding the laser beam was too strong. Even though the exploding apples should have indicated this long ago, he goes ahead and repositions Ron's baseball on the laser. Presto, the machine works and their family is restored to its proper size. 

But something only adults might notice is the fact that Ron's baseball has a hole in it now, from having zapped a couch and four kids already. Wouldn't Wayne need a new baseball for the machine to work again? Using the old one seems like a fresh recipe for disaster.

The sparring families magically end up as friends

Take the Disney movie aspect out of the equation for a second and consider this: An eccentric neighborhood scientist is responsible for the fact that his own and his neighbor's children have been zapped with a laser beam and reduced to miniature size. The kids almost die in the backyard, and without any further testing, he shoots them with the laser again. In real life, this kind of child endangerment would likely result in jail time as well as the Szalinskis having their kids taken into Child Protective Services custody — at least

But in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, everything is sorted out over a handshake between Big Russ and Wayne. They've all been bonded by trauma, which obviously does happen in real life. But Wayne took way too many risks and put so many people in danger, simply by having a laser in his attic at all, and any adult in the audience has to be left thinking that in the real world, there would have been huge legal consequences rather than unlikely friendship.