June 20, 2011

Super 8's Kinda Super

Seeing the trailers for Super 8, I wasn't really that interested in seeing it, although a collaboration between J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg sounded intriguing. Using a gift card, I went to see it on its opening weekend. And I actually enjoyed it. In the spirit of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Goonies, Stand by Me, this coming-of-age film tells the story of a group of friends in small town America. They are making a Super 8 zombie film, and inadvertently witness and document a horrific train crash. The mystery deepens when the United States Air Force swoops in, people and dogs disappear, along with electrical appliances and car engines. Answers aren't forthcoming from sinister Air Force Colonel Nelec (Noah Emmerich). (I have to admit, I thought of the smoke monster from Lost once or twice during the movie.)

Kyle Chandler is the recently widowed deputy sheriff Jackson Lamb trying to parent Joe (a sensitive Joel Courtney). Joe, who loves to make models and is in charge of makeup for their little movie, is best friends with budding filmmaker Charles (Riley Griffiths). The grieving Joe forms a forbidden friendship with Alice (the very talented sister of Dakota Fanning, a captivating Elle Fanning), daughter of town troublemaker Louis Dainard (Ron Eldard), who may have had something to do with his mother's untimely demise.

Hats off to the rest of the zombie film's crew and cast: Martin (Gabriel Basso), Cary (Ryan Lee), and Preston (Zach Mills). I loved the natural friendship, seemingly improvised banter, and the bickering between the boys. Set during summer vacation, I could feel their carefree, adventuresome spirits. 1979 comes vividly to life: Walter Cronkite, Walkmans, even "My Sharona". I cared so much for the kids' stories that the final act with all its special effects and action, felt anti-climactic to me. This film is a love letter to auteurs and movie-lovers. Stay for the credits, and you'll see the children's very entertaining horror flick.

(photo from Movieline)

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