Joe Dante lovingly re-creates the monster pics of his youth in Matinee, an okay film geared toward buffs that should have been much better.
Matinee derives from a high concept (credited to Jerico and scripter Charlie Haas) in which the real-life fears of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis interact with the artificial fears of a horror film premiering at a Key West movie house.
Believably cast as a huckster/showman modeled after producer-director William Castle, John Goodman is previewing his new monster pic Mant! (Half Man, Half Ant, All Terror!) in hopes of impressing exhibitor Jesse White to book it at his 50-theater chain.
Film-in-a-film is a very accurate, hilarious black & white pastiche featuring (uncredited) genre vets Kevin McCarthy, Robert Cornthwaite (of the original The Thing) and William Shallert opposite Goodman’s girlfriend Cathy Moriarty. Yet Dante lets his own film lapse into the excruciating cliches of both the ‘good teen’ romances and the j.d. sagas of the ’50s.
Even when the film gets bogged down in romantic drivel, there are enough clever in-jokes and well-remembered period details to keep buffs happy. Casting is accurate.