Reel Critics: Good, but ‘Super 8’ loses track of time

“Super 8" was written and directed by J.J. Abrams (“Lost”) and produced by Steven Spielberg.

It’s solid entertainment with a retro feel (yikes, 1979 is now retro!), pitting a cluster of adorably geeky kids against something strange and mysterious. Sound familiar?

It should. This is like “E.T.” meets “Goonies” meets “Stand by Me.” Your pulse may be racing during the spectacular action sequences, but that feeling of déjà vu keeps you from being totally vested in the plot.

Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning head up a group of talented actors playing middle school pals making a zombie movie (a low-budget delight — be sure to stick around for the credits).

Much as I enjoyed “Super 8’s” playful energy, I felt let down by how the plot points were so abruptly resolved in the final 10 minutes. No doubt the filmmakers were having so much fun, they lost track of time.

I imagined them running down their “to do” list: Monster effects, bad guys, heart-tugging sentiment? Check and double check. One more chorus of “My Sharona” and we’re outta here!


An not-so-awesome summer bummer flick

Being the grandfather of a 5-year-old girl, I am always on the lookout for family movies that entertain kids in a meaningful way.

“Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer” seems to have all the right ingredients. The lead character is based on a series of popular children’s books by Megan McDonald.

The casting of all the youngsters is great. Jordana Beatty is picture perfect as pre-teen Judy. She seems like a real kid and not a slick retread of a budding Hannah Montana. Judy is on a mission to have a thrilling summer of fun and adventure that promises lots of frenetic activity.

There are rollercoaster rides and car chases along with the usual juvenile jokes about poop and vomit. There’s lots of action and bright colors. But we end up with a long, goofy chase looking for Bigfoot that is completely contrived.

Judy’s indulgent and spaced-out Aunt Opal is a peculiar addition to the plot. In the end, it’s the serious shortage of real laughs that undermine the enterprise and kept the kids in my audience mostly quiet and looking bored.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender’s office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.