Staten Island Summer (2015) / Comedy

MPAA Rated: R for sexuality/nudity, crude humor and language throughout, drug content and partying - all involving teens.
Running Time: 108 min.

Cast: Graham Phillips, Zack Pearlman, John DeLuca, Mike O'Brien, Bobby Moynahan, Cecily Strong, Ashley Greene, Katie Cockrell, Kellie Cockrell, Fred Armisen, Jim Gaffigan, Kate Walsh, Vincent Pastore, Gina Gershon, Method Man, Jackson Nicoll, Colin Jost, Will Forte, Kate McKinnon
Small role: Penny Marshall, Rhys Thomas, Bret Azar
Director: Rhys Thomas
Screenplay: Colin Jost

Review published August 2, 2015

Staten Island Summer is based on a script written by preppy "Saturday Night Live" head writer Colin Jost, whom series fans will know as one of the anchors for its "Weekend Update" segment.  The film is produced by SNL's head, Lorne Michaels, which likely explains the plethora of the show's cast, both past and present, being involved with the film in supporting roles, including Jost himself playing one of the police officers.  It's a first time effort for Jost, and it shows, telling an oft-told coming-of-age story about a young man's experiences in the summer prior to going off to college.

Set in Staten Island in a nondescript year (it feels like it is supposed to be set in the past, yet contains modern smart phones), a young Jost stand-in named Graham Phillips (Evan Almighty, "The Good Wife") stars as Danny, on the verge of leaving for his first year at Harvard, finishing out his final stint working his summer job at the Great Kills Swim Club.  Danny's parents want to take a family road trip to Disney World before he heads off, but Danny wants to put the kibosh on that when older local beauty, Krystal Menicucci (Greene, Wish I Was Here), a mob princess he has had the biggest crush on since she used to babysit him many years back, befriends him. On the hope of kindling something with Krystal before he heads off for good, Danny and best bud Frank (Pearlman, The Virginity Hit) decide to throw a huge party at the pool, inviting all the cool kids, while also trying to avoid their total prick of a boss, Chuck (O'Brien), who has strictly forbidden the notion.

Some viewers will likely be reminded of another feature film featuring a couple of "Saturday Night Live" alums, 1980's Caddyshack, which also features a main protagonist named Danny, a bunch of slacker co-employees doing a job they barely care for, trying to get around the authoritarians who seem to take the respectability of the place seriously.  It even features some vermin to get rid of, replacing Caddyshack's gopher with a bunch of nesting hornets that Fred Armisen's (Easy A) maintenance guy character, Victor, is having a devil of a time getting rid of, including just about destroying the swim park in the attempt. There's no errant Baby Ruth in the movie, however, so it's not a rip-off, even if it decidedly swims in the same comedic pool.

Unfortunately, it isn't a comparison that works in its favor, as it will likely make viewers itchy to watch Caddyshack for the umpteenth time than sit through a movie that hasn't a tenth of the laughs.  Jost brings in plenty of semiautobiographical details into his film, but ratchets up the Apatow-esque debauchery for the movie to include lots of drug jokes, copious amounts of teen drinking, loss of virginity gags, and even brandished guns, swapping out Caddyshack for Superbad-inspired crude pot and partying revelry.  Unfortunately, by going for the broadest and raunchiest of jokes possible, the film loses its claim to earn the touching, bittersweet coming-of-age beats that it expects us to be on board with in the end.   If it could have been one or the other, we might have a pleasant nostalgic summer surprise here, instead of a collection of scenes and characters that merely make you nostalgic for other films you enjoyed much better.  Jost seems likeable, but it's fitting that after the summer he'll go back to being one of the "Not Ready for Primetime Players" on SNL.

Qwipster's rating:

2015 Vince Leo