Yes I know. I’m on the cutting edge of film and all that. I’ll be getting an invitation to co-host an episode of Half In The Bag in no time, I just know it.
Anyways, there are all sorts of “nerd movies” that were made in the 80s that are somewhere in the remake process as we speak – TRON, The Last Starfighter, DARYL, Wargames, Weird Science, and so on. I saw all of those growing up but for some reason I completely missed Cloak & Dagger. I knew very little about this movie going into it when it showed up on my Netflix recommendations, Atari had made an arcade game for it which had been called Agent X in the prototype stage – and that’s pretty much it.
As it turns out it is a kids movie with a slightly darker tone to it than what passes for kids movies nowadays. It has a simple plot – a kid named Davey Osbourne (played by Henry Thomas of E.T. fame) finds an escape from the harsh reality of his mother’s recent passing through board and video games. One character from a board game becomes his imaginary friend, who happens to look exactly like the boy’s father. This friend is a spy who gets into various adventures that the boy of course romanticizes to the point of wanting to become involved in some secret operations of his own. When he does after witnessing a murder, it becomes more than he bargained for. It ends up involving a secret message built inside of an Atari 5200 game cartridge conveniently called Cloak & Dagger.
The movie keeps a good pace and has a few twists and turns woven into the plot but it has to stretch things here and there for it to work – you have typical kids movie tropes like full grown adult men incapable of shooting straight at the kid (but they can hit a moving rat in the dark!) and they never seem to run fast enough to catch a 10~ year old. I’m not sure if it ended up in the deleted scenes or not but they setup a potential love interest for the father near the beginning but it never connects for the pay off. It must have bogged the movie down or something. The ending is also a little sudden – you can make the connection but when it faded to black I was surprised, expecting a little more closure.
It is kind of amusing to see the 5200 get so much love in a film; DARYL was the same way. I had to laugh though when the token geek guy plugs the game in and he pushes the power button twice to have the game turn on (which for the uninitiated on the Atari 5200, would turn it on and then off). They do have a Cloak & Dagger arcade cabinet in the background but they never show it being played. Of course it is easy to forget that at first the 5200 was highly anticipated right before it’s release, it is one of the many “what if’s” in Atari history, particularly regarding the controller. Although on a side note, some games it works perfectly fine on my 5200 (like Adventure II, it is flawless and in a cheating way Space Dungeon) while others some buttons have a tough time registering. How nice it would be to get a redesign of that stick.
Anyways, I would recommend it if you haven’t seen it, it’s not a 4 star film but it’s not exactly the first pick for films deserving of an MST3k treatment (maybe 20th or so).