Paul is a bright boy, and he spots plutonium right away when his mom’s new suitor, Dr. Mathewson (John Lithgow), gives him a tour of the (secret) lab where he works. Paul then proves his suspicions to himself and his girlfriend, Jenny (Nixon), when he discovers a plethora of five-leaf clovers growing outside the facility, a rare mutation. Paul is mad that there’s a secret nuclear facility in his town, and convinces aspiring journalist Jenny to help him break into the lab to expose it. In an elaborate (and mostly silent, Rififi-style) break-in sequence, Paul scrambles the closed-circuit cameras, tricks the motion detectors, uses a robot arm to steal a canister of translucent green plutonium and replace it with Prell, drills a hole in the wall with a powerful laser beam and guides the plutonium around the radiation detectors on the back of a remote-control truck while Jenny distracts the only two guards. It’s quite a scene, and it fulfills a number of teenage boy heist fantasies. (I know it wasn’t just me who dreamed of such hijinks!)
It presents a very realistic (aside from the afore-mentioned permissive-ness) vision of 80s suburbia and of childhood, reminiscent of Spielberg’s. In fact, the story is really "E.T. with a bomb." And it also presents a fairly believable teenage relationship between Paul and Jenny, a rarity in this sort of 80s teen movie. Cynthia Nixon is fantastic, and very cute, too. Had I seen this as a kid, I’ve no doubt I would have developed a crush on her big enough to make me actually watch an episode of Sex In the City by choice when I grew up! The acting, in fact, is solid all around. Collet makes an appealing lead (wonder where he disappeared to), Jill Eikenberry is a good single mom in the Dee Wallace vein, and John Lithgow and a pre-Frasier John Mahoney (as the Army colonel leading the chase) both play up the fact that there are no real bad guys in the movie, just adults who make national security decisions that a kid can’t really understand. Like Spielberg’s 80s movies as opposed to John Hughes’s, it’s surprisingly undated with regards to hair and fashions, so that’s also a factor in how well it holds up.