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

In this image released by Magnolia Pictures, Shailene Woodley, from left, Gabourey Sidibe and Mark Indelicato appear in a scene from "White Bird in a Blizzard." (AP Photo/Magnolia Pictures)
Review: Shailene Woodley gets lost in a blizzardFilm review: Appealing Shailene Woodley gets caught in a strange and campy 'Blizzard'
The Associated Press1 hour ago
Renee Zellweger attends ELLE's 21st annual Women In Hollywood Awards at the Four Seasons Hotel on Monday, Oct. 20, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)
Renee Zellweger: 'People don't know me in my 40s'Renee Zellweger responds to talk of her appearance: 'People don't know me in my 40s'
The Associated Press2 hours ago
FILE - In this April 16, 2014 file photo, Laura Poitras poses for a portrait in New York. Poitras' one-of-a-kind documentary "Citizenfour," intimately captures Edward Snowden during his leak of NSA documents. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)
Q&A: Poitras on capturing history in a hotel roomQ&A: Laura Poitras on witnessing history from a hotel room for her Snowden doc 'Citizenfour'
The Associated Press4 hours ago
This photo released by Lionsgate shows Ian McShane as Winston in a scene from the film, "John Wick."  (AP Photo/Lionsgate, David Lee)
Review: 'John Wick' delivers non-stop actionFilm Review: 'John Wick' delivers non-stop action with bare-bones narrative
The Associated Press5 hours ago
Defense wants theater shooting trial postponedDefense wants Colorado theater shooting trial postponed to review second sanity evaluation
The Associated Press22 hours ago
Movie News