Super 8

July, 2011, Action

Directed by:J. J. Abrams

Starring:Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, and Kyle Chandler

 

 

Super 8

 

J.J. Abrams, the director of smashingly successful Hollywood retreads, (Mission Impossible III, Star Trek) works from his own script in this likeable homage to Spielberg-ian themes of adolescent male bonding, coming to terms with absent parents and the appeal of bicycles as the best form of small town transportation. With a giant nod to the “conspiracy of silence” plot device employed in 1986’s Stand By Me, Abrams has created a science fiction movie with some genuinely terrifying moments which also captures the era when Walkman where all the rage and a kids with a camera and a bit of imagination could become amateur filmmakers.

Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) is a middle-schooler, grieving for his dead mother, who was killed in an industrial accident. He’s also dealing with the near total absence of his father Jackson Lamb, whose duties as a deputy sheriff make it nearly impossible for him to find time to be with his lonely son as a long summer vacation begins. Joe fills his time working as a member of a film crew assembled by his best friend Charles (Ridley Griffith) who organizes the filming of a late-night scene for his movie at an abandoned train station, well after the curfews set by their parents. The cast, crew and leading lady Alice (Elle Fanning) witness a train wreck which appears to have been deliberately caused by their science teacher. The next morning, a large military detachment shows up to declare the accident site off limits and mysterious disappearances being to take place. Guess who realizes that the footage captured in Jackson’s “borrowed’ Super 8 camera may provide crucial clues to the increasingly ominous series of events  tearing Joe’s home town apart?

Abrams delivers plenty of creepy action along with shrewd observations about the pleasures and frustrations of small town life, but at bottom, this is just another summer fantasy film intended for the age group which seems to be buying most of Hollywood’s movie tickets these days. The film is technically solid, competently acted and not without merit - - but isn’t it time for a few films to reach theaters with something more than cloned plots, gobs of pyrotechnics and the kind of dialogue available on any number of well-written television sitcoms?

The Verdict? Clever massaging of old tinsel-town themes, best enjoyed by males who haven’t yet begun to shave.    

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