In the surprisingly insightful, terribly titled found-footage fantasy "Chronicle," three Seattle high school students with various personal issues develop superpowers.
No, they don't become teenage werewolves or vampires. But after an encounter with some sort of alien crystal thing, they find themselves with fast-developing telekinetic abilities.
What the film, directed by Josh Trank of TV's "The Kill Point" and written by him and Max Landis (son of John Landis), lacks in Spielbergian production values, it makes up for in imagination, the quality of the film's insights into human behavior and the acting by the three young leads.
The first hurdle you must surmount watching "Chronicle" is not the smell of teen spirit, but believing it is all being shot in shaky-cam-style by adolescent basket-case Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan of "In Treatment"). Andrew lives with his mother (Bo Petersen), who is on oxygen and dying of some wasting disease, and his surly, alcoholic father (Michael Kelly), who is known to be drunk at 7:30 a.m.
Andrew is also bullied at school by the jocks and he is still a virgin.
Andrew has just bought a used, unwieldy digital video camera, and he takes it with him everywhere.
Now, this might not be as convincing as "The Blair Witch Project" was since "Blair Witch" was about an actual film crew. This is more like "Cloverfield," but I managed to suspend my disbelief.
Andrew gets rides to school from his cousin Matt Garetty (talented newcomer Alex Russell), who is tall, athletic, part of the cool crowd and somewhat embarrassed to be seen around Andrew.
After Andrew, Matt and fellow student and Obama-esque school president candidate Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan of "The Wire" and "Friday Night Lights") encounter the crystal thing in a cave, they become inseparable, uniquely alike and uniquely different from their peers.
For one, in scenes that capture the delight of being untethered from gravity, they fly, and they get nosebleeds when they try to do things that are too difficult until they further evolve.
I know it's geeky for me to say that the film is a metaphor for the raging, hormonal extremes of adolescence, how we strive to be part of the status quo and then gravitate toward those who are different in the ways we are different and then toil to develop our natural gifts. In an interesting twist, Andrew, who listens to "Ziggy Stardust" ("He was the nazz"), becomes more violent and drawn to darkness, while Matt and Steve become more sympathetic and protective of him.
You might describe "Chronicle" as "The Office" of teen superhero movies and say it owes a debt to Brian De Palma's "Carrie" (1976) and "The Fury" (1978). But it's also remarkably resonant and, yes, smells like teen spirit.
("Chronicle" contains violence and gory images.)