Stolen Summer Movie Review

Writer-director Pete Jones serves up a nostalgic slice-of-life in his examination of friendship and faith in the winsome but saccharine Project Greenlight winner Stolen Summer. Jones, the budding filmmaker whose chosen screenplay would emerge victorious among hundreds of competitors, delivers a film that has atmosphere and heart but ultimately ends up as just another anemic, personal story with well-meaning sentiment. There is much being made about the behind-the-scene politics of nurturing Jones's winning pet project through the Project Greenlight campaign, as well as his movie being the subject of a hit HBO documentary series. Sadly, this all feels like some publicity stunt more than it does a legitimate process in discovering talented artists.

Stolen Summer tells the poignant tale of two energetic 8-year old youngsters living in the hazy days of Chicago circa 1976 where disco music and polyester profoundly dominated the scene. Pint-sized rabble-rouser Catholic schoolboy Pete O'Malley (Adi Stein) is sternly lectured by his teacher and told that he must change his mischievous ways over the summertime. And so Pete is released from school with some serious thinking to do while he basks in the glory days of the upcoming summer. But Pete's overworked firefighter father (Aidan Quinn) and stay-at-home mother (Bonnie Hunt) are harried by all their responsibilities and just don't have the time to cater to all the personal and emotional needs of their brood. Thus, Pete has to find his own way to spiritual salvation.

While trying his best to "see the light" and offer to share some of his redemption, Pete parks himself right in front of a synagogue where he bumps into Rabbi Jacobsen (Kevin Pollak) and makes a connection with Jacobsen's son Danny (Mike Weinberg). Together, the boys forge a nice little friendship until it is revealed that poor Danny has leukemia.

Stolen Summer has a certain intimate coziness that captures the essence of the working class. Native Chicagoan Jones's script has imagination, but he gets heavy-handed and sentimental, upstaging the good stuff. The idea of one child innocently inflicting his belief system upon another has the making for a resounding, soul-searching narrative, but Stolen Summer never capitalizes on this concept and opts for the breezy and amateurish feel of an after school special on the subject of tolerance.

You can find the movie on DVD or video on its own, but you're better off checking out the 4-disc set that includes the film plus the entire Project Greenlight TV series (uncensored) and another disc of bonus materials. Watching the casting process, budgeting politics, and shooting a scene under a train track is actually painful. Of course, watching the film itself is painful too, but the Greenlight stuff is like a good hurt. The bonus disc features additional footage shot for the series, including some good spoofs and other gags (most notable the hilarious "How to Imitate Chris Moore" challenge, courtesy of Ben Affleck). The movie itself also sports deleted scenes and a commentary track, plus a comparison between the short Pete Jones created for the contest vs. the actual scene as seen in the film. Interesting, but we just wish it was a better movie.

You stole my summer. Now give it back.


Comments

johnnyferns's picture

johnnyferns

I believe the two inexperience kids have acted just as any 7 yr old kid would do. There was a lot of substance in the way they put it across.

3 years 11 months ago
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Stolen Summer Rating

" Weak "

Rating: PG, 2002

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