‘Super 8’ is a fun flick among a crop of so-so movies

Su­per 8 is an ex­ample of what a good sum­mer pop­corn flick should be like. Nos­tal­gia. A little sus­pense. An ad­oles­cent ro­mance. Loud, clanging met­al and big, boom­ing ex­plo­sions.

Oh yeah, and a mon­ster that causes massive de­struc­tion.

It’s not per­fec­tion, but it def­in­itely stands out as above av­er­age in a sea of be­low-av­er­age movies cur­rently in theat­ers.

Su­per 8 is a bit of a Goon­ies-meets-E.T. hy­brid (since Steven Spiel­berg is pro­du­cer, that’s not sur­pris­ing). It’s also slightly sim­il­ar to writer/dir­ect­or J.J. Ab­rams’ last “mon­ster” movie, Clover­field, in that the creature and its pur­pose aren’t all that im­port­ant to the film. Thank­fully, Ab­rams wisely scrapped the an­noy­ing shaky-cam­era stuff. 

Set in 1979, Su­per 8 is about a group of child­hood friends mak­ing a hor­ror movie (us­ing a Su­per 8 cam­era). Soon, they are thrown in­to a real-life mon­ster situ­ation when a pickup truck and train have an un­for­tu­nate col­li­sion right where the kids are shoot­ing their movie. 

The group in­cludes Joe (Joel Court­ney), Cary (Ry­an Lee), Pre­ston (Zach Mills), Charles (Ri­ley Grif­fiths) and Mar­tin (Gab­ri­el Basso). Joe, the movie’s makeup artist (he makes them look like cool zom­bies), re­cently lost his moth­er to a tra­gic ac­ci­dent. 

He has a crush on Alice (Elle Fan­ning, who is just as nat­ur­al an act­ress as her older sis­ter Dakota), who agrees to act in the movie. The fath­ers of Joe and Alice don’t get along too well and ba­sic­ally for­bid them from hanging out to­geth­er.

The Joe-and-Alice re­la­tion­ship has been done be­fore in count­less movies, but Court­ney and Fan­ning are so emo­tion­ally con­nec­ted to their char­ac­ters that it doesn’t mat­ter. They do a good job of mak­ing the audi­ence care about them and their for­bid­den love. 

Go­ing back to the mon­ster story, the kids fig­ure out that the train ac­ci­dent was no ac­ci­dent and real­ize there’s a mon­ster on the loose. The mil­it­ary is sus­pi­ciously try­ing to cov­er up something and forces every­one to evac­u­ate. 

Mean­while, Joe, Alice and the gang are furi­ously try­ing to save them­selves and their small Ohio town — and to find out what the mon­ster really wants.

I couldn’t help but think that Elle Fan­ning looked and ac­ted way older than her 13 years. I was sur­prised to real­ize after the movie that she was only 12 dur­ing film­ing. I’m guess­ing she had her growth spurt already, be­cause she ap­peared quite tall for her age.

The movie is not without a few flaws. The res­ol­u­tion of the mon­ster situ­ation is def­in­itely rather blah and un­der­whelm­ing. The mil­it­ary/gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials are clich&ea­cute;d ca­ri­ca­tures.

Su­per 8 is the kind of movie that the whole fam­ily can en­joy. One thing to keep in mind is that it’s PG-13, mainly for lan­guage, and I thought it went a bit too far with the kids’ curs­ing (even if ad­oles­cents do talk like that). 

Par­ents will en­joy the walk down memory lane; kids will re­late to some of the troubles between the friends. It’s big-budget en­ter­tain­ment, but it also brings a de­cent story and tugs at the heartstrings without go­ing over­board. And stick around dur­ing the end cred­its for a fun bo­nus scene. ••

Movie Grade: B+

You can reach at shorbrook@bsmphilly.com.

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