Review: ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ brings us back to the movies

If you wonder when you’ll be ready to go back to a movie theater, consider letting Tom Cruise remind you what a good time an entertaining film can deliver.

The actor’s homage to the 1980s offers a simple yet endearing story that makes us long for the good old days when we could munch our popcorn while absorbing all the action on a silver screen. The superstar’s magical presence makes “Top Gun: Maverick” an ideal movie for all of us who love movies.

Within the first minutes, you should feel at home with this sequel even if you haven’t seen the original “Top Gun” in years. You may recall that the first film didn’t offer much of a story beyond the standard boy meets girl, boy loves to fly, boy takes off, boy and girl eventually crash land. And, though the tale felt as old as time, the exciting sequences of planes flying through the air ignited the screen.

The new edition follows a proven recipe. The ageless Cruise returns as Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a once brash, now seasoned aviator who knows the real enemies are within ourselves. When assigned to teach a group of young pilots how to soar in the skies, while destroying an unnamed enemy’s uranium plants, Maverick resists admitting how much the world has changed. As he revisits his memories – including the death of best friend “Goose” and turbulence with former girlfriend Penny – the ever-so-committed Maverick focuses on how to bring out the best in the aviators he believes can do the job.

Director Joseph Kosinski – working from a script assembled by Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie – makes sure that every moment in the film reminds us how much we like watching Cruise on screen. Nothing is left to chance. Each time Maverick smiles, speaks, ponders or flies, Kosinski uses his camera to showcase the name above the title. This careful treatment reminds us, as well, of times gone by when super stars arrived on screen with all the trappings. “Top Gun: Maverick” is designed to reestablish Cruise as the biggest name in movies. And it works.

Of course, others appear in the movie, too, and they do what’s needed to support the star. Jennifer Connelly, an Oscar winner for “A Beautiful Mind,” wistfully wonders what Maverick is all about while Miles Teller, so effective in “Whiplash,” gives the character of “Rooster” – son of the late “Goose” – more depth than the script describes. Jon Hamm and Ed Harris make the most of their scenes to establish the strict military behavior that offsets the free-thinking Maverick approach.

Ultimately, “Top Gun: Maverick” is all about Cruise, who also introduces the film with a sincere thank you to the audience for coming to a theater. When the screen is big, the sounds are loud and the popcorn comes from someone else’s kitchen, it may be time to go back to the movies. And, if you do, have a great time.

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Film Summary: Top Gun: Maverick

Content: High. The return of Tom Cruise to the big screen offers an entertaining reason to go back to the movies.
Entertainment: High. Cruise pushes all the right buttons as a free-thinking aviator who believes in the power of flight.
Message: High. Although the story is predictable, the visuals remind us how fun movies can be.
Relevance: High. Any opportunity to sit back, munch some popcorn and savor time at the movies is always relevant.
Opportunity for Dialogue: High. This film can prompt conversation between you and your older children about how people can bring out the best in each other, at any altitude.

 “Top Gun: Maverick” runs 2 hours, 10 minutes, is Rated PG-13 for “sequences of intense action, and some strong language,” and is showing in theaters.