Starring: Graham Phillips, Zack Pearlman, Ashley Greene, Bobby Moynihan, John DeLuca, Cecily Strong, Michael Patrick O’Brien, Fred Armisen, Jackson Nicoll, Gina Gershon, Kate Walsh, Jim Gaffigan, Penny Marshall, Vincent Pastore, Colin Jost, Method Man, Will Forte, Kate McKinnon
Directed By: Rhys Thomas
I don’t usually list writers, but it is probably important to note that this film was written by Colin Jost and produced by Lorne Michaels. So, basically, this film is what SNL castmembers do on hiatus. You’d expect that Colin Jost would write a funnier film than Staten Island Summer, but he really played it safe. I’m disappointed that he wrote a film that so clearly seems to scream “Superbad/The Way Way Back/The To Do List” to me. I mean, none of those films are unique in their own rights, but this literally feels like a combination of those three films. You have your two main characters (Phillips/Pearlman) who are both best friends, and virgins. There’s a plot to lose their virginity, which covers basically every teen movie ever, and it takes place at a pool (The Way Way Back), which even features a really cool “slightly older guy” (Moynihan). He’s cool because he’s got it all figured out. Weed, pools, and parties man. Forever.
I think what the film short sells itself on is the likeability of most of its cast. Pearlman just seems like a clone of every actor like him who has ever come along. He’s the cheap affordable version of “Jonah Hill type”, which is either going to be filled by him or Adam Devine at this point. Ashley Greene has zero chemistry with anyone she’s in a scene with. But the rest of the cast does a fine job. Notably, Moynihan, Armisen, Strong, Jost, Forte, and McKinnon (all SNL alumni). I was also fairly impressed with John DeLuca, who fit his role really well, and Gina Gershon who was used expertly for her role.
Another thing I appreciated was how the film isn’t overly raunchy. I feel like so many of these films are made nowadays with dicks waving in your face, and explosions of bodily fluids. I didn’t feel like this was overtly crude in any way. It was a nice throwback to when teen movies weren’t all over-the-top R rated raunch fests. Sure, you had your Porky’s, but there were a lot of Sixteen Candles along the way too. Surprisingly, Staten Island Summer is more of that.
I’d say the film largely squanders the “Staten Island” part, except with DeLuca’s role. It doesn’t really explore the area outside of the pool and show us “this is why we chose Staten Island for this film”.
I’m actually surprised this film didn’t go to theatres, and wound up this fast on Netflix. I’ve definitely seen worse theatrical releases. I suppose, the few critics who actually saw this and didn’t like it, killed the films chances of more people seeing it and taking it seriously. Yes, it’s a very unoriginal concept, but somewhere in there is a film with a good heart, and an understanding of where it came from. It honors the films that came before it in a way a knockoff truly should. It doesn’t seek to necessarily rip off a plot, without feeling like its also tipping its hat in the same direction. It’s so familiar, yet, that’s OK. And, it was a pretty decent two hours of my life.
Not the funniest film of the summer, but if you’re looking for a good comedy (not a great one), and you like “teens try to lose their virginity” as your sub-genre, you’ll probably enjoy this.
FINAL GRADE: B