Sci-Fi/Thriller, 112 Minutes, 2011
If you were thinking from the promos that this was going to “Goonies: the Next Generation” well, you’re partly right. The group of kids is appropriately precocious and charming but the film has a deep undercurrent of darkness that tempers the enjoyment just a bit. There are complex issues at play in these lives and, unfortunately, the film does little to truly explore them beyond a token resolution.
This would be my biggest complaint about the film: it gets a little lazy near the end. Some expected scenes never materialize. For example the movie clearly builds to a scene where the main character forces his father accept him, to trust him… but it never really happens. Also the titular “Super 8” film pretty also much fades off about halfway through the movie and doesn’t actually have any significant impact.
(That said the credits are accompanied by the absolutely hilarious Super 8 movie filmed by the kids: “The Case”. Zombies being made by the evil “Romero Chemical Company”. It’s priceless. In some ways it also seems like more love was poured into this than into the main feature.)
The creature is also more frightening than you might think and it does some really bad things (not without reason, but nonetheless). This is on purpose, of course: it’s clearly a multi-limbed, case of “you can’t judge a book by its cover”, but it sometimes gets pushed into unsettling areas. But for those that thought (perhaps because Spielberg’s name is plastered all over it) that we’d eventually see a CGI “E.T.” you’re going to be sadly disappointed.
The thrills in the movie are all pretty easy; good, but easy. The real joy comes from the interaction between the kids. Like the best movies of my misspent youth the kids in this movie are the kids you wish you had for friends. Elle Fanning, specifically, is excellent (and the Fanning family must now be finanacially set for at least the next four or five generations) and Ryan Lee handily carries most of the laughs.
It’s easy – and perhaps warranted – to just blow this off as a “Goonies” or “Stand by Me” wannabe made needlessly “gritty” but I think that’s doing it a bit of a disservice. On a lot of levels it works and really, is trying to be the next “Goonies” really all that wrong?