The Perfect Summer
by Phil Boatwright

New on DVD.

Eric Roberts stars as the grandpa, Sydney Penny as the mom, Adam Horner as the kid who’d rather live in Chicago than on the beach, and Katie Garfield as the beach bunny who changes the lead’s mind about living at the beach. The teen drama is directed by Gary Wheeler, written by Nathan Scoggins and produced by mistake (a line I stole from a movie – Critic’s Choice – but then every idea associated with this production was stolen). 85 minutes.

FILM SYNOPSIS: A teen with attitude and his mom relocate from Chicago to a coastal community and move in with Grandpa (who, unbeknownst to either of them, was a legendary surfer dude in his youth). At odds with everybody, young Jake is soon smitten by the pretty beach babe who surfs. So, he gets Grandpa to teach him how to surf.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Where to begin? Let’s start with the obnoxious musical montages. One montage to further a story – okay. Two – maybe. But this film is nothing but montages used to further the plot, or simply to state the obvious over and over. A montage is considered to be lazy scene construction by most writers. And while I’m sure the ho-hum background songs that accompany these montages were designed to appeal to a younger demographic than that of yours truly, I defy anyone to recall the messages that make up these obligatory tunes (other than the composers who may have been paid by the word).

An equal complaint: the lead, Adam Horner, a young actor with all the charisma of a broken surfboard. Born in Chelmsford, England, the young thespian migrated to America, evidently with the intent of restoring the art of acting to the grandeur once associated with the Druids.

By now most moviegoers are accustomed to the portrayal of the angst-ridden teenager, a non-smiling protagonist who protests even a “good Morning” greeting. Ever since James Dean mumbled and swaggered across the screen in Rebel Without a Cause, moviemakers have condemned teenaged characters to this stereotype. Sadly, most movie teenagers, as in this case, come across more as rebels without a clue. (Another stolen insight, but certainly fitting for this production.)

And in this day of “realism” in movies, shouldn’t the lead actors show some ability with their character’s interest? If they were playing violinists, I would expect the actors to have taken some violin lessons. Same goes for the sport of surfing in movies. Unless you’re Moondoggie or Annette, actors need to look as if they know their way around the waves. Here, I’m not sure the lead or his female interest even stood up on a board.

Oh, and shouldn’t a surfing movie have some awesome waves, dude? The surfing tournament in The Perfect Summer is brief and blah. I’ve seen bigger waves on Lake Michigan and I doubt many real surfers would be impressed with the style or execution of theses filmed competitors.

My next major complaint has to do with the overly familiar storyline. While clean and heartfelt, it lacks originality or inspiration. Last year’s Chasing Mavericks had basically the same scenario, with the usual suspects: the frustrated lead, the pretty girl of his dreams, the gruff mentor who also has much to learn, the brokenhearted single parent, and the antagonist who dislikes the lead simply because his one-time girl is now looking at the new kid. But unlike The Perfect Summer, a film by the numbers, Chasing Mavericks had heart and truisms that nourished the spirit. Plus, it reminded me of the beauty of the central and northern California coastline. What’s more, it was one of the cleanest movies I’d seen in theaters for quite some time. There was no swearing, no crudity, no exploitive sexual situations – just fine storytelling with engaging actors.

The Perfect Summer has that clean quality in common with Chasing Mavericks, but lacks the engaging aspects. It gets approval by some organizations evidently for being sanitary, but since there are several better films that address the same clichés, why not view better efforts?

DVD Alternatives: (click the linked titles to read our full review)

Chasing Mavericks
Soul Surfer
Ender’s Game
Smile
The Magic of Bell Isle

Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken: Gabrielle Anwar is outstanding in this true story about a courageous teenage girl searching for her place in life and finding an unusual answer to her dreams as she becomes a Big Top stunt rider. Rated G, it’s more suitable for older teens