For a film buff watching “Matinee,” it’s no surprise at all to see Joe Dante’s name as director. Dante, who directed “Gremlins”, “The Howling” and “Explorers” (among others), has a Spielbergian touch with genre cinema, able to punctuate his movies’ inner worlds with heavy doses of nostalgia while acknowledging the difficulties of everyday life with an empathetic sensibility. That heartfelt touch is evident throughout this sorely underappreciated minor classic, which features one of John Goodman’s most charming performances as a gimmicky B-horror director in the ’60s who arrives in a small town for a screening of his latest opus just as the Cuban missile crisis is heating up, and the impact that those two seemingly unrelated events have on the town’s teenagers. It’s a gloriously entertaining and often laugh-out-loud valentine to genre movies of yonder, which, in the face of hyper-conservative moral-majority restrictions on content, turned the moviegoing experience into a bit of a carnival show in order to compensate for the lack of meaningful action on the screen. Dante seems enamored with nostalgia-tinged remembrances throughout, from the excitement of being on precipice between childhood and adulthood, to the bond among young friends faced with apocalyptic doomsday scenarios but forced to continue along as though nothing were happening, to the pain of missing an active duty parent, but ultimately, “Matinee” is about loving the moviegoing experience. So, fans of genre cinema will be in hog heaven here, but anyone who has a soft spot in their heart for movies will adore it as well.
Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)