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'Chronicle' review: Superpowers are no match for teen angst

Matt Pais, @mattpais

RedEye movie critic

February 2, 2012

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*** (out of four)

Dude. What if you could skip rocks … with your mind?

OK, the set-up behind “Chronicle,” whose title could pretty much be the title of any movie ever, may sound stupid: Three Seattle teenagers (Michael B. Jordan of “Friday Night Lights,” Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell) crawl into a hole in the ground and encounter a bright shiny thing that gives them the ability to move objects through telekinesis. Their excursions, which begin with minor tasks like elevating Legos and girls’ skirts and escalate to sliding cars and exploding spiders, are captured on the video camera Andrew (DeHaan) carries around at all times. Obviously this loner, who has an abusive father and terminally ill mother, cares more about establishing a barrier between himself and the rest of the world than recognizing the whole found footage thing could have gone away after “Cloverfield” and no one would have complained.

Though ultimately the conflicted heroes of “Chronicle” must determine what to do with their new-found talents, the movie doesn’t get bogged down in Great Power Means Great Responsibility land. Steve (Jordan) and Matt (Russell) just emphasize not wanting to hurt people. What makes “Chronicle” so breezily entertaining is that these guys talk and act like real teens trying to understand their place in the world after suddenly becoming unthinkably powerful.

Max Landis’ script takes too long to establish conflict, but he captures kids pretending to be knowledgeable and adult before realizing they’re neither yet. Several audience members in the screening were laughing at moments I didn’t find laughable, and afterward I overheard someone remark that “Chronicle” is worse than “Jumper.” 1. Not even close to that bad. 2. Just because “Chronicle” features dudes jumping into the sky doesn’t mean the movie has that much in common with “Jumper.”

By the way, first-time feature director Josh Trank is reportedly the top choice to help Fox reboot the “Fantastic Four” series. Sounds like a plan, considering “Chronicle” is smarter and sleeker than the previous two “FF” movies combined.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 7 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com. @mattpais