There is a popular scene from Family Guy thanks to TikTok where Peter Griffin talks about how he doesn’t like The Godfather because “it insists upon itself.” That’s the best way to describe Summer of 84, a movie that thinks it’s more innovative and creative than it really it is.
Summer follows a long list of pop culture movies and TV shows that want to rebuild the 1980s as the greatest decade of all time by throwing in so many homages and references to products and merchandise pertinent to the decade. But for many of those who lived through it, it wasn’t that great. There were good times, but they were a lot of bad times. Thankfully, this movie flew so under the radar it didn’t have the disappointment that cocky arrogant Super 8 had. But Summer is still as bad and seems to follow the same cookie-cutter presence, but giving us a quartet of suburbia teen twerps who didn’t have the Internet so they decided to spend their times constantly arguing with each other.
This is one of my greatest pet peeves. In watching this and Super 8 and even Stranger Things, there seems to be an almost perfect banter amongst each other. It’s a lot like Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue where every word, or even sound feels more rehearsed. There’s no spontaniety as the characters almost seem to know what the other is going to say and how the respond.
The movie’s main character is Davey Armstrong (Graham Verchere), who is at that age where he’s becoming more interested in girls, but he still has a paper route on his bicycle. When he approaches his neighbor and police officer Wayne Mackey (Rich Sommer) for payment due, Mackey asks him to come in to help him move something down in the basement. You can feel the tension that this scene is going to go bad as Davey is put in the position of having to be the one moving backyard.
Down in the basement, Davey gets coureous about a room that Mackey says he is turning into a dark room. There’s also another room that has a lock on it. This piques his interest as there are missing people around town, mostly kids. Could Mackey be the killer?
Davey talks his friends into helping him and here where the movie falls apart quickly. They’re all caricatures from better movies about young boys their age. There’s the one obssessed with sex, Tommy “Eats” Eaton (Judah Lewis); the one with glasses and a scrawny build with almost wild hair, Curtis Farraday (Cory Gruter-Andrew); and the fat kid, Dale “Woody” Woodworth (Caleb Emery). Woody is similar to Chunk in The Goonies. He’s the variety of the “movie fat kid” that is the constant victim of his friends’ insults most by Eats who makes sexual comments about his mother, Brenda (Susie Castillo), who is a nurse and single mother.
Much of the movie is a bunch of boring scenes as Davey and his friends constantly bicker with each other as they suspect Mackey of doing something, then find evidence that makes him innocent, but then find, stuff that makes him suspect. It’s really boring. And it’s obvious to anyone who’s seen this set-up before that eventually Mackey will be the killer. There’s no real tension though. Sommer does what he can walking a thin line being someone we’re not sure of until the very end, which is handled so badly it only makes the movie worse.
The only good moments are those between Davey and his other neighbor and former babysitter, Nikki Kaszuba (Tiera Skovbye), whose parents are getting a divorce. Davey and Nikki have some scenes together that work and you can feel that spark between them that they might be a couple. But the rest of the movie.
The worst characters are Davey’s parents, Randall (Jason Gray-Standford) and Sheila (Shauna Johannesen). All scenes with them are horrible. Mainly, it’s because they don’t know if they’re in a thriller or a dark comedy. And that’s the problem, is this supposed to be a thriller because there’s not many scenes I felt anyone was in trouble. If it’s a dark comedy, I didn’t find anything funny or amusing. The ‘Burbs did this concept better.
In the end when it’s revealed that Mackey is actually the serial killer, he is able to kidnap Davey and Woody, which raises a lot of questions considering that the local police (who know of his actions) would have officers placed in the neighborhood. Mackey eventually kills Woody, because he’s the fat kid, but lets Davey live because it will haunt him the rest of his life knowing if Mackey is after him. It’s a horrible ending.
But yet the filmmakers probably think they’re being innovative. That’s why this movie insists upon itself. You can watch this movie if you want to but I don’t recommend it. You have one hour and 45 minutes of your life to do something more productive.
What do you think? Please comment.