Staten Island Summer full movie review - A film that, in a way, personifies lust
Lorne Michaels' career past his prime and his most recognized comedies has actually been better, in my opinion, than when his name was stamped on nearly every mainstream comedy that was released in theaters.
Michaels is known for being the producer on films such as Wayne's World, The Ladies Man, and A Night at the Roxbury, all films having some relations to Saturday Night Live. In the 1990's, Michaels was one of the biggest names in comedy and his films were largely feature-length sketches from Saturday Night Live featuring characters recognizable on a nationwide scale.
Michaels' career in the present day, to me, has been a lot more watchable than films like Coneheads or A Night at the Roxbury ever were. From films like Hot Rod, The Guilt Trip, and now Staten Island Summer, which have shifted from the idea of trying to take the charm and humor of a five minute sketch and extend it into a film has long passed, he and his team of writers, directors, and actors have found fun, often overblown comic scenarios to pleasantly play with and incorporate into a film that hits all the bases of a fun, basic comedy in a sea where far too little are seen anymore.
Staten Island Summer, Michaels' latest endeavor, released on video-on-demand platforms and eventually Netflix, a potentially telling sign of where his kinds of films are headed in the future, is yet another film portraying the local water park as the haven for lust, romance, lasting friendships, and coming of age turmoil. Much like The Way, Way Back, or even Adventureland, despite taking place at a theme park, this film shows life as a lifeguard at a waterpark as the most breezy and carefree existence that can fulfill a young teenager and supply him with fast food and cell phone money. Characters, lifeguards or maintenance crew, are shown doing so little work that it makes teenagers on shows like Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide look like workaholic, Ivy League kids instead of teenagers meandering around several stories of a middle school looking for purpose.
Nevermind that, however, for this is not a film where complete and total realism exists. We follow Danny (Graham Phillips), your average teenager, living in Staten Island and working at this fabled waterpark to make some extra pocket money. His coworkers are what make his job "the best job in the world," so he claims: there's his best friend Frank (Zack Pearlman), the roly-poly voice of reason, Anthony (John DeLuca), the best looking lifeguard who only seems to win over the hearts of Chardonnay-sipping, middle-aged women (I can relate), particularly Gina Gershon, Mary Ellen (Cecily Strong), a sarcastic, tomboyish woman who provides the most laughs and quips, and "Skootch" (Bobby Moynihan), the only soul at the waterpark not working a summer job, but rather, a career where he comes to work late and under the influence of marijuana more often than not. Their boss is the quirky and dictative Chuck (Saturday Night Live's own Mike O'Brien), who tries to put a damper on the group's fun by expelling the idea of throwing a staff party if he's not invited to it. Nonetheless, the gang of misfits work to assemble the best staff party possible, without his knowledge, complete with alcohol supplied by police officers, marijuana supplied by local ice cream truck drivers, and women supplied by the local pool.
This is where Krystal Manicucci (Ashley Greene) comes in, a character so significant to the plot that she's the only one with a first and last name. Krystal is the most jaw-droppingly beautiful woman on Staten Island, but her father (Vincent Pastore) is the brutal and unrelenting force of the Italian mafia who is overprotective of his own, especially his daughter. Danny, despite the strange little albatross of having once had Krystal as a babysitter, wants to find a way to win the attraction of her before summer is up.
A great scene about place in the teenage social class occurs between both Danny and Krystal in the film Staten Island Summer, and it starts when the two are alone. Danny tells Krystal, despite finally achieving long-desired alone time between the two, that he is the kind of guy she'd marry but not kiss. Krystal, on the other hand, reveals to Danny that she thinks she's the kind of girl he'd kiss but not marry. This is a scene that perfectly defines lust in an unconventional and emotionally honest way. It's also scenes like that which buoy Staten Island Summer from the drudgery of teen movie conventions into something a tad bit more significant. Like lust itself, this is a film that's redirects our attention on something slight, but ostensibly very meaningful at the time, before pulling back to reveal its character and realize that it's not at deep as it seems, but it's great eye candy.
Of course, there are issues present in the film. For one, the obligatory scene where the characters begin to fight, bicker, and break off to do a bit of moaning is wholly contrived and unwarranted. This is where writer Colin Jost (who also plays the rowdy police officer) deviates into convention rather than sticking to his guns, supplying the film with the strong amount of wit he's found in the story.
Yet Staten Island Summer, as stated, supplies its story with a great amount of wit and humor, in the broad, but also charming and light-hearted form that I rarely tire of; it's not too slight to be forgettable, yet it's not too thick and raunchy to be a desperate turn-off. This is a strong and notable effort, especially for a producer who is really hitting high points when few seem to be paying attention.