In a world of superhero and comic-book movies where grown-ups run the show, it's good to get back to a time when kids are the ones that find themselves on an unexpected adventure that turn them into the reluctant hero at the end of the film.  Once again, I warn you that there WILL BE SPOILERS in this review.

While extremely reminiscent of "The Goonies" with a touch of "E.T." for good measure, the new Steven Spielberg-produced, J. J. Abrams-directed film "Super 8" manages to provide a refreshingly unique break from the inundation of superhero/comic-book flicks hitting the screen the last handful of years.  Granted these movies are geared toward the adolescent population for the most part, they still tend to focus on the grown-up finding his/her inner strength to become a champion for all mankind.  In this movie, it's the kids who take center-stage as they battle the dubious forces of evil to save their loved ones, as well as themselves, without the aid of any artificial superpowers.

The movie opens on a rather somber note: the funeral of the main character's mother.  It's where we get to see the first interactions of a group of kids at the onset of puberty that eventually become the focus of the film.  The basic plot is that these kids are about to embark on their summer vacation together back in the 1970's, using the time to finish an 8mm film that will be submitted in a national young-person's film contest.  While filming a farewell/love scene at a train station in the dead of night, a spectacular crash happens on the tracks.  As the kids run for cover, the camera miraculously escapes harm and continues to record the damage done by the derailed locomotive.  Amidst the train wreckage, mysterious objects are found scattered amongst the debris and strange noises emanate from an overturned train car.  It isn't until later when the footage is developed that we get a glimpse of a strange, and very large creature breaking free and crawling out of the destruction.

The rest of the story follows our heroes as they try to sort out what is causing havoc in their community, and subsequently, their personal lives as well.  The clean lines drawn between good and evil that you get in "E.T." become much more blurred in "Super 8" as the story progresses.  The alien scaring dogs to neighboring towns while killing and collecting humans to feed on actually has a sympathetic side as we learn that its destructive behavior is only the result of having been mistreated by humans after it was taken captive by the military decades ago (an alternate ending to "E.T." perhaps?).  The creature was merely seeking help repairing its ship to go home when it was subjected to cruel and unusual tests and experiments at the hands or the American government/military.  

In the end, it takes a young boy, no more than 13 that reaches the alien enough to put a stop to the terror it inflicted upon his home town.  Through powerful words of empathy, remorse, and compassion, our hero quells the rage inside the beast and produces, quite literally, the final key that let's both of them go in their own way - the alien off on his ship, and the grieving boy of his deceased mother.

I have to say this was a highly entertaining movie.  A lot was going on for a majority of the movie, but none of it ever got stale or boring.  The writers kept you intrigued by scattering just the right amount of vague clues as to the origin of the mysterious objects after the train derailed and how they may have connected to the elusive creature that emerged from the wreckage.  All the pieces come together in the finale to produce a satisfyingly, dare I say, happy ending, but not without its appropriate share of pain and suffering to get there along the way.  I'd recommend this movie to anyone who wants to see something a little off the beaten path that doesn't get all flashy with special effects, or concentrate on the plot too much.  I know it's cheesy to say, but this one went straight to the heart.  I'd be lying if I said that I didn't think the purpose of this movie was to give you an emotional slap in the face; what was "E.T." after all but a bleeding-heart story about an outsider just wanting to go home where he's accepted?  You get the same thing here, but with a much more realistic sense (pay no attention to that gigantic, spider-looking alien staring you in the face).

Go see this movie.  It was good.  You will like it.  End of sentence.