If you've recently re-watched, as I have, Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" (1975), "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977), " "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" (1982), or any of his kid-friendly fantasy/adventure/science-fiction pictures -- or the later, harsher "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" (2001) and "War of the Worlds" (2005) -- you'll quickly recognize that J.J. Abrams' Spielberg-homage "Super 8" (co-produced by Spielberg himself) is a mere shadow of the work that inspired it. The aforementioned Spielberg movies still dazzle, shock and inspire awe -- not only in their justly famous set pieces, but in the richness and sophistication of their shot-by-shot inventiveness. They're spellbinding because they always show you more than you realize you've seen.
Spielberg is a prodigiously adroit filmmaker; Abrams is a guy who has a lot of genuine affection for Spielberg's movies. And, for me, that at least makes "Super 8" far more watchable than, say, Richard Donner's desultory 1985 Spielberg clone "The Goonies," though it's nothing as lively or inventive as Joe Dante's 1984 "Gremlins," either (and, yes, Spielberg is listed as a producer on all three of these pictues).
Spielberg's popular entertainments do tend to feature suburban kids, fractured families, monsters, and such -- but that's not what the movies are about. Beneath the surface (and what gorgeous surfaces they are), these are sophisticated cinematic works. (I long ago made the case that "E.T." and "Close Encounters" are daring abstract experimental films that just happened to be thrilling and moving narrative movies, too.)