Spielberg and Abrams do make a good combination. Super 8 shows what happens when you combine The Goonies with Cloverfield. You end up with a awkward collection of kids trying to figure out what the heck that thing is. With the help of a fat kid, the kid with braces, the kid with glasses, the heartthrob girl, the pesky sister and some stoner dude, the regular-looking kid tries to hold everything together. (See, I told you it was part Goonies.)
The movie takes place in 1980, which means there are plenty of old references that we 40-somethings appreciate. My only complaint is that someone mentions a Rubik's Cube, which I don't remember coming out until 1981. Close enough for a movie, I suppose.
I like the one scene where the kids go in to get their Super-8 film developed, and they ask the guy if he can do it over night. He says, "Dude, no one does overnight." The audience laughed. Also, don't get too angry when you see how much gas cost back then!
What's impressive about this movie (and also Cloverfield), is that there are some things that are not revealed in previews. WHAT A CONCEPT! We know something is in the train, but what is it? Other movie producers could learn from Abrams' example and not put the stupid end of the movie in the trailer! I enjoy trying to figure stuff out on my own.
The kids in the movie are hilarious, and are pretty good actors. For example, at one point, the fat kid explains that his doctor said he was yet to "slim down," which got a lot of laughs. I halfway wonder if this was a nod to Jerry O'Connell, who played the fat kid in Stand By Me. I'll let you enjoy the other gems when you go to see this movie.
Michael Giacchino provides good and appropriate music. Giacchino is to Abrams as John Williams is to Spielberg. It appears that these director/composer duos can't be separated. Giacchino is a breath of fresh air after listening to Williams for two decades. However, the "Abrams" Giacchino is starting to sound the same. In any early scene, I found myself thinking, "Hey, I heard that tune on Lost!" Giacchino is capable of different music as demonstrated in The Incredibles. So, Abrams/Giacchino: if either one of you is reading this, just know that it would be okay if you went with a different style of music in your next movie. "What works" doesn't have to be what you need to stick with.
I also wonder about the blue horizontal glare that we see throughout the movie. It's a nice effect, and it was never annoying--but I just have to know: does it mean anything? Is it a known artifact of filming on Super 8 film? If someone knows, please tell me!
As for kid audiences, I wouldn't take anyone under 11. The suspenseful scenes are ... well ... suspenseful.
Abrams has done a great job with another movie, and I look forward to the next one.