Thursday, June 16, 2011

Super 8

Super 8 is the antidote to so many mindless, heartless summer popcorn special-effects moneymakers Hollywood churns out. It is carefully crafted and full of charm, light on CGI and heavy on believability and warmth. Written and directed by J.J. Abrams, who evidently is something of a student working with producer Steven Spielberg, Super 8 is as much a coming-of-age comedy as it is a thrilling monster film. It succeeds at almost everything it tries.

A group of middle school boys, free from the burden of homework (the local school's marquee reads, "Have a Great Summer!"), have teamed up to make a monster movie of their own using a cheap 8 mm camcorder and enter the production into a local contest. Led by Charles (Riley Griffiths), the group of friends recruit a girl, Alice (the excellent Elle Fanning), to play a starring role and then they all sneak out of their houses to shoot some scenes at an abandoned old train station on the outskirts of their rural Ohio town. But they end up recording something a bit more spectacular on their Super 8 than they had planned.

The comparisons to E.T. are legitimate. This film doesn't reach that class, though it clearly aspires to do so. Anybody who was actually a teenager in 1979 (Brooke and I didn't have the pleasure) will certainly enjoy the special attention that is paid to re-creating that year. But this story, full of newcomer actors, love and suspense, should appeal to practically anyone.

Brooke: A-
Grant: A-

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