With VOD & streaming services in full swing, more and more product is becoming readily available to watch on sites such as Netflix. This opportunity allows smaller films to find a big stage on which to showcase themselves, Staten Island Summer is one of those films.
The film follows Danny Campbell (played by Graham Phillips) in his last few weeks on Staten Island before he moves to Harvard. Danny works at a local swimming pool with some of his close friends, and best friend Frank. Prior to leaving, Danny puts off going on the annual family trip to Disneyland to host a party at the pool he works in the hopes of hooking up with the ‘Queen of Staten Island’ Krystal Manicucci (Ashley Greene) and having one last blow out with his friends. Standing in the way of achieving this is his predictably nosey boss, Krystal’s gangster father and the fumblings of youth.
After only seeing the trailer online not so long ago I was surprised to see this title appear on Netflix. From what I had seen it looked like it could be a hidden gem that would go unnoticed, especially after thoroughly enjoying another coming of age film with a similar setting in The Way, Way Back. Throw in a sprinkling of SNL alumni then we could have been in for a treat. Unfortunately Staten Island Summer is nowhere near the quality of The Way Way Back and is easily one of the most drab and tepid films about friendship & growing up I’ve ever seen.
The majority of lead cast are wooden, with the exception of Bobby Moynihan & Zack Pearlman, but the latter is playing an incredible rip-off of Jonah Hills character in Superbad. In fact the relationship between Danny & Frank is almost identical to that of Michael Cera & Jonah Hill’s in Superbad, and not just in terms theme, but character roles. Frank is annoyed Danny is leaving and worries he’ll forget about him, and he also happens to be the supporting character who is chubby, fast talking comedy relief who is a tad vulgar. This character archetype has become one of the most horribly overused roles in film, and is getting to the point where it’s just offensive. I wish I could say the character of Frank is the only overused, by the book stereotype, but I’d be lying. We have a muscular but dumb kid looking to join the Navy, the tom boy who scrubs up quite well at the climax of the film and the ‘legendary’ older worker who is forever intoxicated, I also can’t forget to mention that Krystal’s father and his gang might as well be Fat Tony and his muscle from The Simpsons. From a film written & directed by SNL players I’d expect something with a hell of a lot more originality than this.
To further punctuate the dull nature of the film, the series of events that leads to the climax is well worn ground and utterly boring. The interactions between characters that should be creating animosity, drama or tension are so poorly executed and acted it feels like your watching an amateur drama. The leading example of this can be seen when Danny & his friends fall out with one another when the party is in danger of being cancelled and then subsequently make up, it’s ridiculously petty and the reasons are just stupid. Sure, petty fallouts between friends happen, but not as flaky as what is used here.
The only bright spots of the film belong to the supporting cast, the likes of Will Forte, Jim Gaffigan, Gina Gershon & Fred Armison provide a much needed boost to proceedings but aren’t enough to save this film from being anything but plain.
The posters for this film suggest some sort of American Pie comedy but come the end you get anything but. It’s light on funny moments, has a weak story, shallow characters and is about as vanilla a film you can get. It’s not bad, but it’s blandness makes it a film to forget, disappointing.