The rap on J.J. Abrams’ filmic ode to All Things Spielbergian is that a sweetly-observed, naturalistic story about a gang of pubescent high school misfits in the late ‘70s loses its focus when it shifts from substitute family drama & amateur moviemaking to government conspiracies & alien monsters. But the film is meant as a mash-up, teasing out memories from THE GOONIES/’85, STAND BY ME/’86 and WAR OF THE WORLDS/’05, along with winks toward CLOSE ENCOUNTERS/’77; E.T./’82; even BLOW UP/’66! It’s a lot of fun, endearing, a bit too sloppy for its own good (especially in the desperately plotted third act), and just about the best thing Abrams has done on the big screen. The basic idea has the kids stealing some nighttime shots for their goofy homemade zombie pic when they accidentally film a mysterious train crash. As their town falls apart and various personal dramas play out for each of the kids (a delightfully motley crew of losers & eccentrics), they wait for the ‘super-8' film to come back from the lab. And what they’ve captured is no special effect! Spielberg himself ‘godfathered’ the pic as producer and he must have been grinning ear-to-ear with the results. Not only from the big-bang stuff & all the affectionate nods at his own legacy, but at the wonderful perfs Abrams got out of all the kids. The film’s good; the kids are great.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: In addition to this, Abrams has only helmed STAR TREK, its upcoming sequel & MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III. Born in 1966, isn’t it time he moved past his own adolescence?
DOUBLE-BILL: Any of the influencing titles mentioned above would do nicely, including the two non-Spielberg items.