Up to now I’ve missed every
opportunity to catch the prime time work of TV show runner/movie producer J.J.
Abrams: Lost – much too big a commitment; Felicity – too soapy; Mission
Impossible III – I’m so over Tom Terrific. But as soon as I heard about his
Spielberg reboot I was hooked. Suddenly I find myself embedded in the lower
half of the California theatre in Berkeley’s upper balcony, the part you have
to climb down into, a sort of conversation pit style living room where you can
imagine yourself actually in the movie. And so balancing the Landmark large
size (free-refill) popcorn and a giant Diet Coke, I sank down in my seat and
felt this enormous grin taking over my face, a grin that would last through the
I’m not sure if it’s the ferocity
of the film’s run-away locomotive of a story – commencing when the kid
filmmakers find themselves fleeing the greatest celluloid train crash – or just
the pure mix of adrenalin and nostalgia to once again experience the pre-Reagan
era rush of a pre-puberty kids’ tale with real appearing sweet kids.
I won’t give away anything that
hasn’t already leaked out of early reviews but Super 8 is infused with
the delicious creepy feel of evil adult machinations that only kids can set
right, the kind that fueled Executive Producer Steven Spielberg’s
classics Close Encounters of the Third Kind/ and E.T.
The juvenile cast is blissfully
free of the celebrity tweener tabloid doomed kids or the smiley faced Disney
kids. The kid lead, Joel Courtney has the down-to-earth gravitas that Fred
Savage imbued his junior high dweeb in TV’s The Golden Years. Courtney’s
Joe Lamb has the typical challenges of overcoming a frosty relationship with
his deputy sheriff dad ( Kyle Chandler/Jackson Lamb) and heartbreaking
job of stealing and later rescuing his best friend’s girl ( Elle
A cute meet moment has Joe
instructing Alice in how to play a fleshing eating zombie.
“How am I suppose to be a zombie?”
“Pretty much just be a lifeless
ghoul – dead eyes, scary. Did you ever have Miss Mullen for English?”
“Like her but hungry for human
flesh like she wants to turn everybody into a zombie.”
Super 8’s actual space alien
who’s terrorizing Joe’s town – making small pets and overly large policeman
disappear – is smartly kept out of view until the film’s big Et moment,
which is neither corny nor mawkish. You kind of sense that Abrams and Spielberg
had a whole lot of fun spit-balling ideas for this one – like the pint size
firecracker addicted little pepper pot, Cary (Ryan Lee) who’s like a hyper
version of the snot nosed little monsters from the original Bad News Bears.
Super 8 for its non-stop
energy, zesty paranoia about the workings of adults in uniform and good hearted
revival of a Frank Capra feeling small town America under siege does a lot to
restore our faith in the Spielberg invented summer blockbuster.