The Pitch

Mysterious things begin happening after a group of kids witnesses a terrible train crash.

Age Recommendations

Watch With the Kids: 11+ Common Sense Media: 13+

Content Advisories

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and some drug use. The train crash is extremely loud and cataclysmically explosive. Additional scenes of suspense, mayhem, and monster violence are quite intense. Casual references to pot. Middle-school vulgarities. J. J. Abrams lens flares.

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06.20.14

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Figure if you haven't yet gotten to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., The Goonies, or Jurassic Park (the movies Super 8 most references) this would be a good time.

I have to help Charles finish his movie

It’s hard to think of a more emotionally honest and genuine Hollywood film about adolescence than the story of Joe Lamb and his friends making their own zombie movie in the summer between seventh and eighth grade. Which then makes it kind of a pity when their story is taken over by the clamorous arrival of an alien monster and the accompanying military invasion of their town. Writer-director J. J. Abrams juggles two movies with contrasting tones here, while simultaneously paying (shameless, unapologetic) homage to 1980s-era Steven Spielberg. What’s surprising is how much of it he actually pulls off. He’s aided by composer Michael Giacchino (offering his own recreation of classic John Williams), and by a pitch-perfect cast of kid actors, led by Joel Courtney (Joe) and Elle Fanning (Alice). Their tentative, tender connection grows unburdened by the tropes of adolescent sexual panic and middle school-age drama. (That is, if you don’t count the whole alien kidnapping and subsequent rescue from its subterranean lair.) —Chris Ereneta

Edited & designed by Chris Ereneta. Suggestions, feedback, and rants welcome at watchwiththekids@gmail.com, @WatchWithKids, or on Facebook. More about this site.