Living in 2257, Caleb (Isaiah Russell-Bailey) is in mourning. His father (Kid Cudi) recently died on the job, leaving him an orphan in the lunar mining colony they call home. Because his parents are dead, he is granted the opportunity to travel to the paradisal planet Omega, a 75-year journey that’ll require him to be cryogenically frozen. For Caleb, it’s a chance to be elevated from poverty to a kind of utopia. The situation for the young man, however, is far from ideal. He doesn’t want to leave his cadre of friends: Dylan (Billy Barratt), for instance, comes from a troubled family; Borney (Orson Hong) lives fearfully of the ghost stories his older brother tells him; and Marcus (Thomas Boyce) battles an enlarged heart. They know Caleb is leaving soon, forever, and want to make his final day with him special.
The ensuing adventure they plan, which might involve the legend of a hidden treasure, somewhat recalls “The Goonies.” Caleb’s parents also used to visit a crater that has a brook running through it (a fantastical description). It’s an area that often reminded them of Earth, and it was Caleb’s dad’s dying wish that he visit the crater. Caleb and his friends just need to figure out a way to leave the colony without tripping the alarms. The kids enlist the help of Addison (McKenna Grace), who just arrived on the moon with her father after his messy divorce. A scientist, her father has all of the access codes. It doesn’t take much pleading to get Addison to agree. She misses Earth (a planet the other kids, who were born on the lunar surface, have never known) and wants to leave the stuffy confines of the colony.
“Crater” is quite familiar in its references and might be too on the nose (at one point, John Griffin’s script nearly rips off, word-for-word, Ben Affleck’s speech from “Good Will Hunting”). But that’s nothing poisonous for kid’s movies; they often contain winking nods to the adult films the creators love.
And yet, “Crater” is more than its fun adventure. That’s not to say there aren’t hijinks as these kids gleefully drive the rover on the moon’s surface. One “game” sees them using an oxygen tank to shoot themselves into space. It’s all fun until the tether that keeps them from flying off into space breaks. Situations like this cause them to venture off the beaten path. Along the way, a bleak, politically cogent film emerges.