‘Summerhood’ a sharp, smart film

LIZ BRAUN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:28 PM ET

As movies about children go, Summerhood is situated somewhere between Lord of the Flies and Meatballs.

This is a wonderfully written coming-of-age movie about kids at camp, and it's every bit as sharp and unsentimental as children themselves. If you sneer at the sort of movie known as 'family entertainment' you'll probably love Summerhood.

Much of the movie's appeal rests with Lucian Maisel (Everybody's Fine), a tiny, perfect actor who stars in Summerhood as Fetus, a 10-year-old in love.

Fetus is thoughtful, philosophical and vaguely melancholy, and he's been waiting all year to kiss a girl he likes at camp. Will he work up the courage?

As per the usual camp rules, all the characters in Cabin B go by their summer nicknames: Fetus, Toast, Reckless, New Kid and Mud; over in the girls' cabins we find Sundae (Reva Timbers), the girl Fetus loves.

Fetus and his cabin-mates are misfits at camp. Mud (Max Fineberg) is a sleepwalking doughboy who pees in his sleep, and rarely near a toilet; Reckless (Scott Beaudin) is both Fetus' friend and his chief tormentor; New Kid (Keegan Hiltz) gets used as a punching bag; Raincoat Kid (Bailey Maughan) is an albino allergic to everything; and Grandpa (Jesse Camacho) is an old man at 11.

Fetus wants to be one of the boys and to keep up with the guys in his cabin, but he loses macho focus when Sundae arrives at camp. The tale of growing up is narrated by John Cusack.

While the boys fight, engage in pranks or make penis jokes, the adults at camp deal with the usual issues of bad and dangerous behaviour. The camp is divided into junior and senior areas; the little kids hero worship the counsellors, lead among them Careless (Jacob Medjuck) and Ginsu (Michael LeGrice), who are wise, if amoral. As the assistant camp director, Christopher McDonald is at his hysterical best, and Joe Flaherty turns up for a few laconic moments as the camp director.

Summerhood is distinguished by smart writing, deft comedy and a terrific '80s soundtrack that features such artists as Air Supply, Tears for Fears, Doobie Brothers, Rod Stewart and The Cure, among others. The movie is often rude and full of bad language, which means children will love it, and it involves the sort of emotional honesty about childhood that wins grownup viewers, too.

Summerhood is the impressive directorial debut of Jacob Medjuck, who also wrote and produced the feature and filled in at the last moment as an actor when one of the cast dropped out. The movie has none of the awkwardness or clunky moments you might expect from a low-budget first feature.

Summerhood has won six comedy and audience awards at film festivals all over North America.

(This film is rated 14A)

liz.braun@sunmedia.ca


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