I'm not actually sure if I liked it much or not. It started off pretty strong, I was having fun with the kids and their movie, and the whole witnessing a freaky train crash thing was cool, if a little excessive -- seriously, what was with the Michael Bay explosions there? That train was crashing and exploding for like, five minutes. It stopped being awesome and started being just awkwardly hilarious less than halfway through the explosion. But the child actors were all pretty good, and it was a fun watch for the most part.
But the movie sort of lost steam as it went on. It's still good overall, but it isn't consistently awesome. The really strong beginning became a decent middle and a kind-of-eh end. I went from being really interested and entertained, to kind of disappointed and only watching to see if it really would be as predictable as it seemed. I'd say I'm trying to be vague in order to avoid spoilers, but I honestly can't think of any spoilers for this movie. Everything just starts running in a straight, generic alien-invasion-movie line. Apparently the movie was originally two different movies, one a movie about a bunch of kids making their own movie in the 70's and the other just, you know, it's an alien invasion movie. Summer blockbuster stuff. But they were worried that the first one wouldn't attract enough of an audience, so they combined them. Which is kind of really disappointing, because the blockbuster-alien-invasion part of the movie is really weak in comparison to the kids-making-a-movie-then-stuff-happens part. It's just, oh look it's an alien, he crashed on Earth and the military held him captive and torture-experimented on him and now he hates humanity and he's on the rampage. How inspired. I've never seen that a million times before. Whereas a bunch of kids making an adorkable zombie movie in the 70's, that's cute! I really haven't seen that movie before, no sarcasm this time. And stuff is happening around them and they gotta find out what's up and it's a totally nostalgic adventure! I'd watch the shit out of that.
The movie passes the Bechdel test, but only barely. There's only one actually important female character, and that's Alice who goes missing in the middle of the movie and the rest of it's about rescuing her from the alien so she's not in a lot of the movie, but instead is off being the damsel in distress. There's a short scene where one of the kid's mom argues with his sister over how she's not allowed to wear that outfit to school, missy! Then the sister comes back later to use her sexy sex appeal to convince a dude to do the main kids a favour. Why can't she do the favour instead of just convincing somebody else through her feminine wiles? Hey, who'd want to watch a girl drive the car, let's just add another male character instead! And both of the two main characters, Joe and Alice, have missing moms, more female characters that have conveniently vanished from the story so we can focus on the all-important male characters instead. Joe's missing mom is kind of plot-related in that she died because she was covering Alice's dad's shift and there was an accident. Alice's mom is just not around, her dad saying she "left" in one scene but the movie never really pays attention to it. So most of the movie is about a bunch of guys running around. I know there are people out there who'd get all bent out of shape that I would ever have a problem about a movie being mostly guys with just a few female characters, because GEEZ NOT EVERYTHING HAS TO CATER TO YOU FUCKING FEMINISTS 24/7 WHO CARES IF GUYS HAVE ROLES IN MOVIES WHAT I GUESS YOU WANT TO BAN ANYONE WITH A DICK FROM EVER SHOWING THEIR FACE IN HOLLYWOOD IS THAT IT BITCH?!!?!?!!!?!!!1
No, that's not it. I wouldn't have a problem with a movie being mostly guys with one or two female characters, or even no female characters -- there are lots of spectacular movies with an all-male cast. But seriously, every movie is about a bunch of guys running around with maybe a couple of love interests or token chicks. Movies are about dudes. Movies about women never get made unless they're romances or something, in which case they're still usually about dudes, just from another perspective. What would change in this movie if say, the arsonist kid was another chick? Or if the mostly-ignored sister Jen was the one who the kids went to for actual help and got more character development instead of just being "the sexy plot device to trick a guy"? Hell, let's look at other movies, not just this one. What if one or two of the Ghostbusters were women? Why were there so few women in the Star Wars movies? Why did it take Pixar thirteen films before getting around to a female protagonist? Think about it. Women account for fifty percent of the population. Yet in 2009, women only recieved 33% of speaking roles. Isn't that a little messed up?
Anyway, feminist rambling aside, I'd probably recommend this movie, I guess. It's charming when it's not being a generic summer blockbuster, and when it is doing the generic summer blockbuster part it's doing it well enough. The monster looks pretty neat, there are big explosions to keep you reasonably entertained despite the lack of twists or surprises, and the child actors are surprisingly talented. Just don't let the movie fool you into raising your expectations during the really good parts, and you'll like it fine.