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A host of small-screen comic talent is no guarantee of laughs in Staten Island Summer, a coming of age pic from producer Lorne Michaels and a writer/director team drawn from his SNL crew. Director Rhys Thomas and writer Colin Jost coast on well established tropes of last-summer-before-college cinema here, taking some expressionistic liberties with the genre’s usual realist vibe but not enough to overcome the pic’s overall staleness. Familiar faces in supporting roles (from Jim Gaffigan to Gina Gershon) may draw some attention on video, but this is the kind of thing made to fill midafternoon slots on Comedy Central during summer’s dog days.
Graham Phillips plays Danny, a nearly personality-less good kid who is heading to Harvard as soon as he’s done with his last season lifeguarding at Staten Island’s Great Kills Swim Club. His coworkers are the usual types — sexually-frustrated sidekick, blowhard jock, pot-addled slacker (Bobby Moynihan, the biggest name in the core cast), quirky-dictator boss. And if the film’s crotch-sniffing poster isn’t a big enough clue, there’s also a Hot Girl (Ashley Greene), who in this case is the daughter of a local mobster.
The film has a bit of fun with Danny’s love-lust for this “Queen of Staten Island,” but can’t plausibly work her into its central plot, the crew’s attempt to throw a bash celebrating the end of summer. That planning process is not exactly the stuff of high drama — who’ll get the snacks, guys!? — and the bits of color surrounding this mission are reheated leftovers from other pictures in this genre: Try watching Fred Armisen‘s quixotic efforts to kill off the pool’s hornet population, for instance, without pining for Bill Murray‘s war on gophers in Caddyshack.
You don’t have to go back to Caddyshack, though, to find films that make this one look disposable. The Way Way Back and Adventureland both covered exactly this territory in recent years, with much better results. It’s no crime to fail to evoke the kind of evanescent, nostalgic ache the best end-of-high-school pictures deliver. To fail while getting this few laughs, though, is ample reason to get kicked out of the pool.
Production company: Paramount Pictures
Cast: Graham Phillips, Zack Pearlman, Ashley Greene, Bobby Moynihan, John DeLuca, Cecily Strong, Fred Armisen, Kate McKinnon, Kate Walsh, Jim Gaffigan, Gina Gershon, Will Forte, Vincent Pastore, Method Man
Director: Rhys Thomas
Screenwriter: Colin Jost
Producers: Lorne Michaels, John Goldwyn
Director of photography: Anthony Wolberg
Production designer: Mark White
Costume designer: Mikaela Wohl
Editors: Steve Edwards, Adam Epstein
Music: John Swihart
Casting director: Meredity Tucker
Rated R, 107 minutes
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