White Water Summer
The 12 Days Of Summer Movies eccchs-travaganza concludes with a gem known only to HBO subscribers of the late '80s, in which the lady who played Ray Pruit's mama ("with one T, 'cause that's all she could afford") gets nearly as much screentime as the rapids for which the movie's ostensibly named: White Water Summer.The next time you have trouble connecting The Woodsman to Steel Magnolias in Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon, you'll thank Bunting for revisiting this movie, but until then, you'll wonder, as she does, why she watched this seventeen times back in the day.
And the next time you think of a summer movie we should cover next year — or other seasonal movies we should consider — drop us a comment or an email.Hat-tips to the Couch Baron and Joe R, and thanks for joining us for the 12 Days Of Summer Movies.
Summer Mission: Four teenage dudes embark on an Outward-Bound-type adventure with trip leader Vic (Kevin Bacon), an outdoorsy sort who's a little too psyched about putting the teens in dangerous situations in order to force them to rely on their inner resources, trust each other, blah blah NOLS blah.Everyone in the troop is down with Vic at first, except Alan (Sean Astin), a refreshingly three-dimensional nerd by movie standards; Alan thinks Vic is power-tripping, and stubbornly refuses to obey orders on the trail when he thinks they don't make sense.Unsurprisingly, this leads first to peril and then to redemption.
It had been years since I'd last seen White Water Summer, but I watched it several times as a teen, and I remember Vic as a way bigger, crazier asshole than he actually is.I think the movie wants us to distrust him because he does yoga and won't let Alan listen to the Mets on his portable radio (that last thing would have qualified him for villainy in my eyes when I was 15), but until he leaves Alan dangling off the side of Devil's Tooth on a belay line to toughen him up, Vic isn't behaving all that unreasonably — and in the end, although I question his methods, his instincts are right.Alan does overcome his fear of heights and scramble out of jeopardy under his own steam — and when Vic gets seriously injured (thanks almost entirely to a revolt prompted by his treatment of Alan), it's Alan who takes charge and gets him to safety.
It's a weird little movie, not least because I spent a good half an hour trying to place where I'd seen Mitch before (played by Jonathan Adler, he's one of Julia Roberts's brothers in Steel Magnolias…and this is not one of those times where I'm proud to say that I didn't have to look that shit up on IMDb), but mostly because I don't think it knows what kind of movie it is.The wraparound scenes with Astin talking to the audience got shot almost two years after the rest of the movie, and while the gimmick does its job — Alan is a likeable character, and also, without them the movie would be barely an hour long — Astin has passed noticeably to a later stage of pubescence therein.And none of the other so-called "city kids" come off as that "city," not even Alan, who, while he isn't keen on going on the trip, isn't your stereotypical movie New Yorker about the great outdoors: he doesn't get a ton of blisters, he isn't neutered by losing his glasses, we don't hear any complainy obsessing about bugs or bears or having to go to the bathroom outside (in fact, the latter leads to a semi-cute bonding scene), and when it's time to catch fish or haul Vic's broken-legged ass out of a ravine, Alan rigs up the necessary machinery in no time.
I like that about it, though — that not only could Alan have passed most of Vic's 90210-sweat-lodge-episode-y "tests" all along, Alan knows that himself.He's not inept in the face of nature; rather, he's a mouthy skeptic, and by the midway point he's won the other kids over, which is less of a cliché.
Alas, without those enemies-band-together-against-wilderness clichés, the movie's plot is on the lean side, and you may wonder what the movie's trying to do, but you don't have to wonder long — White Water Summer comes in at a brisk 90 minutes and doesn't preach or drag.The soundtrack, on the other hand…
Enviable Vacation Locale?: The cinematography — compliments of John Alcott, a Kubrick DP who died before the movie came out — is amazing; the rope-bridge crossing is a real nail-biter.And the countryside is beautiful; I'd definitely take a vacay in those woods, if my travel agent could guarantee me that Bruce Hornsby wouldn't follow me around the whole time bleating about the western skyline, which is what he does in fully half the scenes.
Coming Of Age?: No doubt it got pitched as a coming-of-age tale, but because the main character is already competent, the plot kind of has nowhere to go with that.
Best Summer Ever?: Not for Vic, who got a nasty concussion and will probably have to have that leg re-broken surgically, not to mention all the blood he lost and the firing he's going to take for completely losing control of the kids…and probably not for Chris either, once the authorities find out Vic got hurt in the first place because Chris winged a rock at his head.Mitch and George get some good stories out of it, though, and it's 1987 in the movie's world, so Alan's psyched: the Mets are World Champs.
Summer Fashions: Not applicable.It's a hiking trip; everyone wears the same outfit the whole movie.There's some patented Alex-P.-Keaton-moussed-bear-claw action going on on Astin in the interstitial scenes, I guess.
Worth The A/C?: Yessir.
As A Summer Movie: B
Tags: 12 Days Of Summer Movies