Super 8 (PG-13) C
"Super 8" is written and directed by J.J. Abrams ("Star Trek", TV's "Lost") and the film's executive producer is Steven Spielberg. That's a pretty good combination.
The story is set in 1979 in small town Ohio. Joe (Joel Courtney) and his friends are making a Zombie movie, that they want to finish over the summer so the can enter it in a Super 8 movie competition. Joe's also dealing with the death of his mother, who was killed in an accident at the factory. The group of boys ask Alice (Elle Fanning) to join the cast of the film.
While shooting a scene one night the group witness a train crash, which it turns out, wasn't an accident. They see some strange things at the accident scene and soon weird things start happening all around the town.
- Before I continue I do want to warn you that I'll be writing about parts of the movie that you may not want to know about. Heading into "Super 8" I didn't know much more about the plot than what I've already laid-out. If you don't want to be spoiled - stop reading now -
People, dogs and electrical objects start disappearing and the whole town is in a panic. Joe's father (Kyle Chandler), who's a police deputy, takes over the investigation because the chief is missing. He tries to figure out why the military has taken over the town and what they're looking for.
The first hour of "Super 8" is pretty good. We get to meet and know these kids, and the set-up - that they accidentally witness and shoot this incredible, mysterious event while making their own movie - really works. But in the second hour "Super 8" becomes just another "alien comes to Earth by accident and a little boy helps him to return home" movie. Sound familiar? Yes, this is a more adult, 2011 version of "E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial", a Spielberg classic and one of my all-time favorite films, with some "Cloverfield" (Abrams 2008 monsters attack NYC movie) thrown in. It's really disappointing that this is the best that these two great filmmakers could come-up with.
And they waste some nice performances. All the kids are very likable and believable, Chandler is solid, as is the rest of the cast. The train crash sequence is pretty amazing, but the rest of the special effects are mainly explosions, which aren't very interesting. And the alien is certainly nothing special.
The movie has a lot of sentimental scenes - the Spielberg touch - but they mostly don't work, including one at the end in which Joe and the alien come face-to-face. CORNY. And even though this movie is about young kids, it's not a kids film. In fact the MPAA didn't release it's rating for "Super 8" until last week. My guess is that they were originally going to give it an "R" because of all the action violence, killing and adult language and some cuts late were made. There are some scary scenes that are absolutely not appropriate for children.
On The Official Kid Critic Report Card, "Super 8" gets a C - mostly because the copycat story. Even if you steal ideas from yourself it's still stealing - and that's absolutely what Abrams and Spielberg have done here. Not super, guys.
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