I am now batting 1000 for crying at the movie theater. For at least the last year, if not my entire life. Actually? I do remember crying during a showing of Major League II when I was in 8th grade. We can actually probably assume that this unnecessary crying does in fact carry through my entire life.
I'm telling you this in the spirit of full disclosure, because I'm about to laud Super 8, and when I say it made me cry I don't want you to wrongly assume that means something special.
Here's the thing about E.T.-esque movies. Well, here's a thing about E.T.-esque movies. I was never that into them. Sure, I saw it. Didn't everyone see E.T.? I really only remember seeing it once, though, and I probably only cried fourteen or fifteen times during that viewing. It was good. It was sweet, sort of, and interesting.
It's possible that the reason Super 8 appeals to me more is that it isn't actually a Spielberg film. He just produced - J.J. Abrams did the writing and directing.
I don't think that's it, though. I actually think that it's coming to the genre from an adult perspective.
By that, I mean having crushes on the dads instead of the kids.
The children in this type of movie are admirable. They're brave - they explore things that are scary (caves, alien spaceships, creepy woods, etc). They're gutsy - they put their own safety at risk to hide or protect people (or aliens, or ... well, it's usually aliens). They're learning who they are. They explore their friendships, which are generally strong and awesome.
It's not that I don't admire those kids. I just never identified with them. I had friends, but not prevent-a-hostile-takeover-of-the-world friends. I would not have gone into those woods or those caves. I sure as hell wouldn't have gone into a spaceship of ANY kind. I explored via books, not actual walking around outside exploration. The biggest thing I hid from my parents was that when I cut food to share with my brother I always cut it 60/40 and took the bigger half. If asked to hide something from the authorities I probably would have turned that shit over and lobbied for witness protection.
While I was watching Super 8, I found myself wondering how the main character (a 14 year old boy), would deal with a step-mother.
The parents in these movies are usually struggling. Life isn't perfect for them - maybe a spouse died, maybe someone lost a job, maybe a move is imminent. While they're dealing with those issues, their damn kids are running all over creation finding crashed spaceships and pissing off the military.
They're still young enough to be pretty.
Everything about the kids in Super 8 is perfect and exactly as you would expect.
Everything about the parents in Super 8 is heartwrenching, surprising, and tearjerking. The peripherals (the parents with 7 kids who are so worried about the boy who lost his mom, for example) are pitch perfect and the kind of people everyone has lived down the street from at one time or another. The two main dads, though - they're glorious. They struggle with their own problems while they love their respective kids, and they do it in ways that are unpredictable enough to keep you engaged while the kids are doing exactly what you expect.
I could (and might) go back and watch E.T. and Flight of the Navigator, see if those parents have the same underlying story line. Maybe, since I was 14 myself, I missed it.
Maybe, though, Super 8 is just a wonderful stand out in what is otherwise sort of a predictable type of movie.
I mean, it's no Major League II...
but it's pretty wonderful.
You should probably go see it now.
But Kyle Chandler's character is all mine.