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Stars: Xavier West, Juliette Salom, Paris Hay, Liam Pope, Harrison Bradley, Hamish Triggs, Tiriel Mora, Marty Rhone and Reg Gorman.
Writer: Bethia Triggs and Glenn Triggs.
Director: Glenn Triggs.

Rating: 3.5/5

Drawing upon a film education forged from a decade when adventure, imagination and the teen demographic ruled the box office, Glenn Triggs has conjured a rousing family adventure in The Comet Kids. While the under-15s squeal with delight at the escapades of their bigscreen alter egos, parents can bask in some nostalgic warmth recalling the films of the 1980s that have lovingly inspired the prolific young director’s fourth feature.

A nursing home visit kick-starts the recollections of old man Lucas (Aussie acting great, Reg Gorman), who ponders a defining moment from his small town Americana upbringing. Young Lucas (a very fine Xavier West) is enamoured with his astronomer dad (Tiriel Mora), who has stumbled upon a previously unknown comet that hits earth not far from their sleepy burg. When ill health tragically claims his dad, Lucas finds himself in a fight with his father’s opportunistic offsider Cliff (70s pop heartthrob, Marty Rhone) to stake a claim for the space rock’s discovery and ownership.

This means ‘cross-country adventure’ for Lucas and his very ragtag group of misfits chums, amongst them schlubby action-man Guns (Liam Pope), nerdy would-be magician Tricks (Harrison Bradley), tech wizard Inertia (Paris Hay), sweet new girl in town Claudia (Juliette Salom) and junk-yard dog turned soft-touch, Archie (the family dog Hamish, one of several of the Triggs clan to help out on the production). Narrative momentum occasionally takes a back seat to shenanigans (a public pool set piece, featuring a butter-drinking lifeguard; at least three nail-biting escapes from the bad guys), but young audiences caught up in the moment won’t mind immediate thrills over plot pacing.

The big three influences are clearly Richard Donner’s The Goonies (1985), Joe Dante’s Explorers (1985) and Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me (1986), with an over-arching adherence to sentimentality that is pure Spielberg. Triggs references the great director’s works even in the most throwaway moments; when ‘Old Lucas’ is left waiting for his family at the nursing home front door, one recalls a similar moment befalling Bill Quinn in ‘Kick the Can’, Spielberg’s segment of 1983’s Twilight Zone: The Movie.

If audiences get a whiff that this type of thickly-rendered homage is not from the filmmaker’s heart, resentment can fester. But Triggs goes all out to honour his filmic inspirations, exhibiting his own strengths as a storyteller and filmmaker while still embracing the legacy left by great 80s family cinema. With a committed cast and tech-savvy crew (DOP’s Bernard Winter’s widescreen camerawork is lovely; the production design team convincingly recall the period setting), The Comet Kids proves an entirely winning, wonderfully engaging throwback to the grand-scale PG-rated romp.

Read the 2012 SCREEN-SPACE Interview with Glenn Triggs here.

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