Man, there are a ton of films that focus on people growing up while spending their summers at pools, or water parks. They all have things in common: the glory of summer, the camaraderie of summer friends, the ending of eras, similar characters, the pursuit of girls, the coming-of-age while sitting poolside and watching over kids.
Staten Island Summer follows along with all of the cliches that have been created in this genre, as can be seen in other similar films, like The Way Way Back, The To-Do List, and Lifeguard. Honestly, there is very little that is new in this film, and much of it feels like we have seen it all before. And it feels restrained.
The central aspects of the plot that are important are that this is the final summer for Danny, as he will be leaving for Harvard in the fall, and in a Superbad-esque way, he is leaving his underachieving best friend behind. Their goal is to throw the biggest end of summer party yet, and depart as friends, and as legends in their small town.
As always, the pool is full of a colourful cast of characters, including the archetypal dumb guy, fierce girl, goofy guy who is too old to be working there, and boss who serves as a primary nemesis in their plans for the party, the hot girl. There are no new characters here, and this is the main disappointment with this film. Sure, there are humourous situations, but even those are pretty much the same ones that have been shown time and again on the screen. Staten Island Summer also lacks the emotional depth of some of the other similar films, making it stuck somewhere between a teen party film, a coming-of-age-story, or a comedy. It touches on all genres, but never really develops any of them to make it fit firmly in one or the other.
It’s not emotional enough to make us really care about the characters and their struggles. It tries, at times, but never really succeeds.
It is not funny enough, and is far too restrained to be a gross out teen comedy, like American Pie, or films of that nature. They attempt to venture into this territory a couple of times, but it was as though they were trying far too hard to maintain a PG-13 rating (even though it is, of course, rated R in the US). Everything could have been taken further.
The relationships between characters have moments that can endear us, but they remain pretty superficial over the course of the film, again providing that lack of emotional depth to not only the characters, but the story as a whole.
Staten Island Summer is not a terrible film. It’s just that there are so many others that are similar, and much better. Viewers could do worse than watching this movie, but if you are looking for something that provides a strong coming-of-age story, watch The Way Way Back instead. If you are looking for more laughs, watch The To-Do List instead. If you want more of a drama, watch Lifeguard.
There are better options out there, and this is the simple issue with Staten Island Summer: it doesn’t distinguish itself at all from these other films that have so many identical things happening in them.