A rare foray into an actual movie theatre for Mrs. Salad, her sister, and myself. Consumer note: I must admit I had missed the previous entries in this long-running series: Super, Super 2, … Fortunately, the movie stands just fine on its own.
Set in 1979 in a small Ohio town, the movie's main characters are a ragtag bunch of kids. They are under the leadership of Charles, who's single-minded about his goal of shooting a zombie movie for entry into an upcoming contest. His primary assistant is Joe, who is a wizard with makeup and model-making. Joe is still recovering from losing his mother in an industrial accident; Joe's father (the always underrated Kyle Chandler) is overwhelmed by the loss, and is barely able to go through the motions of single-fatherhood and his job as deputy.
Both Charles and Joe harbor a teenage crush on Alice, the seemingly unapproachable daughter of the town drunk. She unexpectedly agrees to be in the movie at Joe's urging; one fateful night, the kids set up to film at the town's train station. When it just so happens that a train with a super-secret cargo crashes right in front of them. And it's clear the super-secret cargo has gotten loose.
Pretty soon, inexplicable and creepy things start happening around town. People go missing. A military team arrives and clamps down with secrecy and ruthlessness, but it's clear that they aren't able to get things back under control.
This reminded me a lot of The Goonies and E.T.; kids have center stage and seem more resourceful than the hapless adults around them. The alien is much larger and uglier than E.T., though; he also has a much worse attitude toward Terrans, and he's not satisfied with subsisting on Reeses' Pieces.
The movie got a bad rap from at least one conservative at Big Hollywood because the bad guys are (slight spoiler) the US military, or at least the part of it that descends on this ill-fated small town. Two other guys at the same site (Darin Miller and John P. Hanlon) were not so bothered; I'm in the latter camp.
The special effects were spectacular, I thought all the adult actors and most of the kids were great. There are some very funny bits interspersed in the middle of all the destruction and carnage. It deserves to be seen on the big screen.
One thing though: what's the deal with J.J. Abrams and lens flares? Both here and in Star Trek. Dude, it's distracting.