Mark Reviews Movies

Staten Island Summer


1 Star (out of 4)

Director: Rhys Thomas

Cast: Graham Phillips, Zack Pearlman, Ashley Greene, John DeLuca, Cecily Strong, Bobby Moynihan, Mike O'Brien, Fred Armisen, Gina Gershon, Kate Walsh, Jim Gaffigan, Vincent Pastore, Jackson Nicoll, Method Man, Kate McKinnon, Will Forte

MPAA Rating: R (for sexuality/nudity, crude humor and language throughout, drug content and partying - all involving teens)

Running Time: 1:48

Release Date: 7/24/15 (limited)

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Review by Mark Dujsik | July 23, 2015

Staten Island Summer opens with a voice-over of the main character waxing nostalgic over that special summer before he went to college. Yes, it's a standard, clichéd opening beat, but then it gets a little weird. It turns out that the story of that summer does not take place decades ago. The movie is set in the present day. Call me old-fashioned, but I'm of the mind that we need a gap of at least 10 years before we're allowed to wax nostalgic about anything.

Maybe the voice of the narrator is coming to us from a decade or two in the future, which should give us all hope about state of the modern world. If a guy has the luxury of being nostalgic about that summer he worked at the local pool and partied with his buddies and fell in love, we can assume the guy doesn't have to contend with some dystopian hell-scape overrun with killer robots, suffering from some debilitating plague, or enduring a nuclear winter.

Likely, though, the narration is probably an overlooked holdover from an early version of Colin Jost's screenplay. One gets the sense that the movie was originally set a couple of decades in the past, but at some point, someone realized that period pieces—even from a relatively recent time period—cost more to make than material set today, what with the period-appropriate costumes, props, locations, and set decoration. Throw in a couple of cellphones and some contemporary pop-culture references, and suddenly, you've got yourself a budget that's reduced just enough to afford a pair of flamethrowers for the subplot about the pool's maintenance man trying to destroy a giant nest of hornets.

That running gag isn't the least funny joke in the movie. Then again, this is the kind of movie that could inspire a person to simply list the jokes in order of which have the least potential to be funny.

There's the bit about the pool's tyrannical manger (Mike O'Brien), who evacuates his bowels at the same time every day and, thanks to that routine, ends up fashioning a swimsuit out of toilet paper after a kid steals his itty-bitty swimsuit. We could also include a flashback featuring the protagonist as a kid wining, dining, and going all the way with a stuffed lion that he pretends is his babysitter, or we could go on for a while about the scene in which the protagonist's best friend Frank (Zack Pearlman) mistakenly believes he's having sex with one identical twin when it's actually the other. If we're not excluding the maintenance guy (Fred Armisen) and his flamethrowers, there's the massive explosion when he accidentally sets aflame a building full of fireworks.

Probably, though, the "winner" is the scene in which the best friend gets an erection after ogling a girl in a bikini, and because he's still standing at attention after rescuing a drowning kid, everyone thinks he's a pedophile. That one manages to be physiologically questionable or unnervingly creepy, in addition to its pointless tastelessness.

The story follows Danny (Graham Phillips), who's about to go Harvard and wants to have final blowout with all of his friends and fellow pool employees before going off to college. He's also instantly reminded of his infatuation for his old babysitter Krystal (Ashley Greene) when she arrives at the pool one day and strips down to her bikini. Her father (Vincent Pastore) is an old-school mafia figure who threatens to kill anyone who gives his daughter more than a second's glance, so there's that laugh-less thread running here, too.

The movie gives us a slew of supporting characters, each with their own dead-end jokes. Anthony (John DeLuca) is a muscular, Navy-bound guy whom all the local mothers want and, apparently, do get into bed (Seriously, the laughs just keep on never coming). Skootch (Bobby Moynihan) is a permanent fixture of the neighborhood who has no greater ambition than to smoke lots of pot. Mary Ellen (Cecily Strong) was "raised as a boy," which means she's the only female character who isn't treated as a sex object until, of course, she is (for a romantic turn that comes out of the blue).

Have I mentioned that none of this is funny or even slightly amusing? Would it surprise you to learn that Staten Island Summer also tries to sneak some serious-minded thoughts on friendship and growing up in a last-ditch effort to win some pathos points? It wouldn't? Then carry on with more important matters.

Copyright © 2015 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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