By Roger Moore 2013-03-22

By Roger Moore

Tribune Newspapers Critic

3 stars

Teenagers acquire super powers and, being teenagers, videotape themselves as they learn what they can do in "Chronicle," an entertaining comic-book movie without the comic book.

Featuring effects that put the last two "Spider-Man" movies to shame, engaging, believable characters and a kind of real-teens/real-problems melodramatic screenplay, this makes an entertaining exercise in that child's game, "What would YOU do if you had super powers?"

You know that virginal, nerdy, downtrodden Andrew (Dane DeHaan) is going to address every tormentor and every torment (the sex thing) once he's wandered down that crater and touched the magic, pulsating crystals. His cerebral, Jung-and-Schopenhauer-quoting cousin, Matt (Alex Russell), will get to test out what he's read about humans as "beings of pure will." And Steve (Michael B. Jordan), the popular kid, will find something to do with his new skills in telekinesis.

The clever conceit here is that each boy already has the emotional issues or a personality that will inform how he handles great, seemingly unlimited power. They can goof around, figuring out who can take a smack from a baseball and who can master flying first. But when teenagers do what teenagers do -- act impulsively -- some will handle the ugly consequences better than others.

Matt wants them to follow some rules: "No using it on living things. ... You can't use it when you're angry." He'd also like to impress a lovely video blogger (Ashley Hinshaw), if only he could show her his little secret. The gregarious Steve helps Andrew come out of his shell and join the ranks of the popular by concocting a cute magic act with him. And Andrew is so bent, so twisted up by his dying mom, his alcoholic dad and the bitter hand that life has dealt him that he can't come up with a way to try and help his mother with this new omnipotence.

The young actors are charismatic, sympathetic and charming. The flying effects are first-rate, a marvelous next-generation version of something we've seen done reasonably well since "Superman." The video gimmick has been done to death, and on a couple of occasions, how we get the footage we're watching falls outside of the movie's own logic loop. The gimmick never lets you forget that this is "Cloverfield" meets "Fantastic Four."

But the script -- by director Josh Trank and Max Landis -- sets us up for obvious payoffs, and then trips us up. Even when it follows a predictable path, it takes detours. That makes "Chronicle" a semi-serious sci-fi romp, lighter and more fun than many of the comic-book movies that it steals from, a superhero movie in which nobody ever crusades, or wears a cape.

MPAA rating: PG-13 (for intense action and violence, thematic material, some language, sexual content and teen drinking).

Running time: 1:23.

Cast: Dane Dehaan (Andrew); Alex Russell (Matt); Michael B. Jordan (Steve); Michael Kelly (Richard).

Credits: Directed by Josh Trank; written by Trank and Max Landis; produced by Adam Schroeder, James Dodson and John Davis. A 20th Century Fox release.

Back to Movie Details

Movie News

This photo provided by Sony Pictures Entertainment shows Bradley Cooper, left, and Rachel McAdams in a scene from Columbia Pictures' "Aloha." The movie releases in U.S. theaters on May 29, 2015. (Neal Preston/Sony Pictures Entertainment via AP)
Some Native Hawaiians disapprove of 'Aloha' movie titleSoon-to-be-released 'Aloha' movie draws disapproval for using Hawaiian word for title
The Associated Press30 minutes ago
FILE - In this Oct. 11, 1994 file photo, Princeton University professor John Nash speaks during a news conference at the school in Princeton, N.J., after being named the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for economics. Nash, whose struggle with schizophrenia was chronicled in the 2001 movie "A Beautiful Mind,” died in a car crash along with his wife in New Jersey on Saturday, May 23, 2015, police said. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
John Nash: A life of great struggle and even greater successJohn Nash, 'A Beautiful Mind' and an inspiration for those struggling and striving, dies at 86
The Associated Press3 hours ago
Director Jacques Audiard, foreground, thanks the jury as he is presented the Palme d’Or award for his film Dheepan during the awards ceremony at the 68th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Sunday, May 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
Audiard's 'Dheepan' wins Palme d'Or in upset Cannes finaleJacques Audiard's 'Dheepan' wins Palme d'Or in upset finale of 68th Cannes Film Festival
The Associated Press7 hours ago
'Dheepan,' a French-made immigration drama, has won the Palme d'Or'Dheepan,' a French-made immigration drama, has won the Palme d'Or
The Associated Press17 hours ago
FILE - In this April 21, 2008 file photo, writer and director John Waters poses for a portrait at his home in New York. Waters will give the commencement address at Rhode Island School of Design on Saturday, May 30, 2015, and will receive an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the school. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
Iconic filmmaker John Waters to receive honorary degreeIconic filmmaker John Waters 'flattered' about honorary degree from Rhode Island art school
The Associated Press18 hours ago
Movie News