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Super 8 movie poster

Super 8: Movie Review

Genre: Sci-Fi, Thriller
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: J.J. Abrams

Starring: Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, Kyle Chandler, Ron Eldard
Released by: Paramount Pictures

In Short: Realistic characterizations and some terrific action sequences make this teenage science-fiction adventure story a fun ride, despite its obvious plotlines, which seem lifted right from classic films of the genre.

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This New Alien Still Just Wants to Go Home

If the plot of the new science-fiction flick "Super 8" seems kind of familiar, blame its producer, Steven Spielberg. For despite the fact that J. J. Abrams is credited as the writer-director of the film, Spielberg's influence on the project is clear.  Even though there are some well-thought-out variations on the story, "Super 8" is basically a re-packaging of Spielberg's 1982 classic "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial."

Set in the late 1970s in a California suburb, "Super 8" offers up a group of middle school kids who are in the process of making a home movie about zombies. They aren't actually related, like the main kids in "E.T.," but they might as well be, as they have all been friends forever. Four boys make up the main group, but they add a cute girl to the mix because they need her to play a role in their movie. When they all sneak out at midnight one fateful night to film a sequence, a crazy train crash happens before their eyes, and the kids barely make it out alive.

A still from Super 8 A still from Super 8

What also makes it out alive from the crash is a seriously scary creature, one that the U. S. government is determined to hide from the world. And away we go, as military troops descend on the idyllic suburban town to try to cover up the crash and everything related to it. Sound familiar?

There's a lot that's derivative in Abrams' film, with elements not only of "E.T.," but also touches of "The Iron Giant," "The Goonies" and another Spielberg classic, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." But that's not to say that "Super 8" is a bad movie; it's actually a pretty fun ride. Abrams has created a nostalgic look at the days when it wasn't easy for kids to make their own films, and has cast it with an assemblage of talented young actors. The ensemble, led by the astonishing Elle Fanning (Dakota's younger sister), are completely believable as regular kids thrust into an extraordinary situation; their performances help move the action right along.

Plus, the film is filled with some eye-popping special effects and exciting sequences that should keep viewers of all ages engaged, regardless of whether they have seen all those other movies or not. Just don't be surprised if you can predict the ending, long before the final sequences unspool.

Reviewed by Jenny Peters

(Updated: 06/09/11 CT)

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