For a film buff watching “Matinee,” it’s no surprise at all to see Joe Dante’s name as director. Dante, who directed the “Gremlins” movies, “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 a sensitive, empathetic sensibility and plenty of heart That 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 1960s 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 cinematic content, turned the moviegoing experience into a bit of a circus in order to compensate for the lack of meaningful action on the screen. Dante seems enamored with nostalgia-tinged remembrances throughout, from the precipice between childhood and adolescence, 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 cinema and a shared communal experience that can arise during particularly lively movie screenings. 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)