With ‘Super 8,’ J.J. Abrams & Co. give ‘Spielberg Kids’ their comeback

From the Orlando Sentinel:

In the early 1980s, Steven Spielberg — as a director and producer — served up gangs of daring, resourceful, fun-loving moppets who came to define their generation. He became a Norman Rockwell of the big screen, presenting American suburbia as Americana redefined – fresh-faced kids of every stripe, working together to find the treasure, fend off poltergeists, stand up to bullies or save the alien.

Mention “Spielberg kids” and “I think of the young people in ‘E.T. The Extra Terrestrial,” says the critic and film scholar Leonard Maltin, “suburban kids who have a wide-eyed curiosity about life and a willingness to explore.”

Director J.J. Abrams says that phrase conjures up “the idea that anything was possible, life was limitless. Those were things Spielberg films demonstrated again and again and I loved that.”


Spielberg’s kids are back on screens next weekend. “Super 8,” the new film from J.J. “Star Trek” Abrams, was inspired by Spielberg and produced by Spielberg. It is Abrams’ homage to the master of making exciting, edgy entertainment for and about kids.

“J.J. was a Spielberg kid, inspired by Steven,” says Elle Fanning, 13, one of the child actors in “Super 8.” “He looks up to him so much, and when Steven was on the set, he was like his mentor.”

“J.J. got advice from Steven and from Rob Reiner (“Stand by Me”) on how to choose the kids and how to handle the kids,” says Joel Courtney, 15, Fanning’s co-star. Abrams, Courtney says, took Spielberg’s advice on directing kids to heart. “He knew when to crack jokes and what jokes to crack. There were six kids on set—Elle and us six guys. J.J. was like the seventh kid.”

Joel Courtney