2015 / Director. Rhys Thomas.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
The question is whether STATEN ISLAND SUMMER is full of missed opportunities or is, perhaps, a sleeper comedy that will appreciate over time? I do know that it didn’t immediately resonate with me; however I liked what I was watching. It was a confliction of emotions that I have experienced before with some of my favourite comedies… and so with that in mind I am leaning towards a favourable response.
STATEN ISLAND SUMMER is the latest Saturday Night Live production and one of the first to showcase their current line-up of cast members. Produced by Lorne Michaels and written by Colin Jost (the show’s current weekend update co-anchor), it relies heavily on influence and homage. The story follows a bunch of teenage lifeguards at a local Staten Island swimming pool and it is a simple comedy about teens, sex, drugs and parties. Imagine SUPERBAD, AMERICAN PIE and CADDYSHACK morphing into one and you will have a good idea of what to expect.
What elevates it above the typical teen-romp is its style and soundtrack. The camera work is quite awesome and approaches the narrative with interesting and creative angles and movements. From impressive crane sweeps to subtle atmospheric tracking shots, there is no doubt that a lot of thought has been put into presenting the film. And the soundtrack is fantastic with music from new and old. From the kick-ass opening track from LCD Soundsystem to a bunch other indie-pop acts and some classic pop-rock from the likes of Foreigner. Regardless of what one might think of the film’s writing, there’s no denying the effectiveness of its style.
The performances are good and everyone involved brings a bucket load of fun to the proceedings. The standout performances come from Bobby Moynihan, who channels John Balushi & Chris Farley, and Mike O’Brien as the creepy pool manager. The rest of the cast gels well and there are some significant players who help lift the story up a notch. They include Will Forte, Gina Gershon, Fred Armisen and Zack Pearlman.
What the movie lacks is an immediate punch. There are very few “zingers” and the jokes often seem to miss their mark. I was amused throughout the film but mustered only a few actual belly laughs. It was a strange feeling because I knew that what I was watching was good, and I suspected that with repeat viewings I might begin to really appreciate the subtleties of the humour a lot more. I can recall feeling the same way about most SNL movies. There have been titles that I didn’t initially think much of, such as DIRTY WORK, SUPERSTAR, THE LADIES MAN, NIGHT AT THE ROXBURY and even IT’S PAT. But over time and repeat viewings I came to love them and now consider them to be hilarious. I suspect that STATEN ISLAND SUMMER will have the same effect on me and I am looking forward to watching it again.
There is certainly an old-school quality to this understated little film and the homages to comedies of the 80s and 90s are nicely done. The fact that it arrived under the radar with very little announcement or fanfare can only serve in its favour. Lets see how it holds up in ten years from now.