Super 8The summer of ’11 continues to deliver B-movie throwbacks driven by stories and characters. Super 8, which I caught this weekend at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, joins Thor and Green Lantern in offering characters to care about in thrilling action centered upon family themes. Any of them, and of course the summer’s epic foreign film, Bride Flight, are better than the year’s worst movie so far, Disney’s godawful Pirates of the Carribean 4. As readers know, I’m hard to please, and easily, too easily, satisfied with relatively simple, story-driven fare. And I’m certainly not a fan of director J.J. Abrams, whose Lost series on ABC never appealed to me and whose 2009 Star Trek re-boot was a massive mediocrity, or Super 8‘s executive producer, Steven Spielberg, who’s gone batty in recent years and assaulted the screen with such monstrosities as Munich, and there is some of that moral equivalency here, too. But Super 8, despite its preposterous plot and sentimental charms, works well as another matinee ticket. If it’s underperforming, blame the off-base marketing, which conceals too much. As you already may know, it’s about a group of pubescent kids making a movie in Ohio who witness a mysterious train wreck involving a middle school teacher, some sort of squealing creature that busts out after the crash, and a cargo of strange cubes. Add to that a government even the police learn not to trust, a steel mill that puts a premium on safety, and a dash of wish fulfillment for children of alcoholics and what you get is an hour and 50 minutes of gripping science fiction and light horror. Credit goes to Abrams, who wrote the script, and the excellent cast; Kyle Chandler as the policeman whose son Joe (Joel Courtney) has a crush on the budding actress (Elle Fanning) in a movie contest entry by bossy Charles (Riley Griffiths). All the kids are superb in the movie, if too modern and precocious due to the script, and as they get closer to what’s causing the town of Lillian, Ohio, to power down and generally go berserk, the source of the mayhem illuminates what torments each kid, too, with friendship, family, and fatherhood overpowering those with hostile intent, for a change, making Super 8 a perfect pick for Father’s Day.