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Home » Culture and Criticism

Indian Summer

Submitted by on June 3, 2008 – 7:51 AM13 Comments

On the third day of summer, my Netflix sent to meee…three pairs of dullards, two three-name actresses, and a Corvette and a Bonadoo-cheeeee! It’s Joe R’s turn at the summer-movie helm, and if you need a sleep aid for those “can’t find a cool spot on the pillow” nights, he’s got just the thing: Indian Summer.

Ah, the ol’ summer camp movie. The “twist” on this one is that it’s the adult alumni who return to Camp Nostalgiawanaka (under the tutelage of grandpa-like Alan Arkin) for one last weekend of remembrance. Bill Paxton’s the bad boy, Diane Lane’s the widow, Elizabeth Perkins is the frustrated single, Kevin Pollak is the buttoned-up pair of suspenders, Julie Warner (as usual) is the boring one, and Vincent Spano (as usual) is the one who can’t act.

Summer Timeline: One weekend in early fall. Judging by the wardrobe choices, the weather doesn’t seem all that Indian summer-ish, to tell the truth. Anyway, one weekend to relive old times and, once the plot kicks in, debate over who will keep the camp going once Arkin packs it in.

Enviable Vacation Locale?: I suppose that depends on how you feel about either summer camps or western Ontario.

Coming of Age: Sure, in an ass-backwards way in which thirtysomethings right their boring, wayward ships via camp pranks and moose sightings.

Quick-Burning Summer Romance: It’s only a weekend (and, again, not summer), but the movie manages to rack up a breakup, a near-infidelity, the affirmation of marital commitment, and a hookup so ill-advised it might as well be happening at real summer camp. Sure, none of it is all that satisfying, but at least they never hooked up Elizabeth Perkins and Kevin Pollak like I worried they might.

Do The Characters Find Unconventional Ways To Beat The Heat?: Again, it wasn’t all that hot (it’s clearly fall), but they do find time to swim. Kimberly Williams takes her top off, too, but you’re likely to see more cable-knit sweaters than bikini tops.

Quality Of Beach/Summer Fashions: Let’s talk about Bill Paxton’s hair, which was almost certainly the photo Jon Bon Jovi took to the salon the day he decided to ditch the AquaNet look. Let’s talk about Elizabeth Perkins’s wall of frizzy red hair (and thank God that Celia Hodes managed to settle Elizabeth’s hair down once and for all). Let’s talk about Vincent Spano’s leather jacket, which is only there to remind you that he may design clothes, but he’s a rebel about it.

Also, can we talk about this for a second? What kind of fucked-up year was 1993 where a career in clothing design was depicted via the frustrated dreamer with a wife and kids (Spano) and his stuffed-shirt cousin (Pollak)? Where was the early-’90s equivalent of John Michael Higgins from Best in Show? Actually, scratch that; they’d have probably just gotten Bronson Pinchot a la Beverly Hills Cop, so maybe this fiction was best.

Worth The A/C?: You know, for whatever reason, I’d remembered this movie as kind of a fizzy, fun guilty pleasure. Oh my, is it not. It’s somber, it’s silly (in a bad way), the jokes fall flat 100% of the time (Sam Raimi’s Buster Keaton interludes are a prominent and painful example), it doesn’t hold together logically (nobody thought to ask why Grandpa Arkin decided to invite eight grown adults to summer camp in mid-October?), and most of all it features the most boring collection of human beings possible. If I’m not finding booze and promiscuity in a summer movie, I at least demand characters I’d actually want to be around. Not these sad sacks.

Overall Suitability As Summer Movie: C-minus




  • Rachel says:

    Spano and Pollak’s characters are based on the two dudes who started Roots clothing, whom I think went to Tamakwa back in the ’70s. Maybe their movie alter egos were a little too true to life.

  • Lisa says:

    I rented this video (Old!) because I have a soft spot in my heart for adults reliving their lost youth and because I always envied you East-coasters and your all-summer-long camps in the woods. ::sigh:: But damn, it was horrible. I remember wishing Jason could bounce up out of the lake and stab them all.

  • Michael says:

    @ Rachel: So in other words, Canadian clothing design? ” The 80’s didn’t come to Canada till like ’93.” tm Robin Sparkles. (Sorry Glark).

  • Sadie says:

    Huh. I loved that movie back in the day. Makes me sad, but now I know not to watch it so that I won’t have to start hating it. :)

  • tulip says:

    I remember renting this movie when it first came out. The only thing I enjoyed about it was the camp “caretaker/maintenance person” (whatever he was) always managing to screw himself up. I found myself watching past the main characters to see what he was doing.

  • Besides the fact that this is a pleasant but very dull movie, I couldn’t get past the notion that a bunch of characters in their 30s would even be able to remember the names of anyone they went to summer camp with, much less be obsessed with things that happened there and be curious to see what became of people.

    Granted, I only did day camp, not sleepaway camp, so maybe there’s an emotional intensity to the latter that I just can’t understand.

  • DensityDuck says:

    This is one of those movies that you look at and wonder why they even bothered. They spent all this money making a boring movie where nobody does anything. Like, guys…seriously, years of experience and talent and this is the best thing you can give us?

  • meg says:

    like three weeks ago I rented this movie because I too remember it as being a sort of guilty pleasure nostalgia trip and, dude, word on the disappointment. it was such a shame. and bill paxton is just brutally bad, especially, but not exclusively. the idea that we’re supposed to cheer for him and diane lane is ridiculous and can I just say I wish elizabeth perkins would have broken up that marriage for the sake of the wife, whoever that actress is who used to be in movies, because that guy was a real douchbag.

    and I too thought the company was supposed to be roots – aren’t they wearning roots jackets at some point?

  • Tisha_ says:

    Aww… I saw this movie when it was at the theater, and I LOVED it. Of course, I was 16 at the time, so obviously I was dumb. Maybe I need to watch it again. Or maybe not… maybe I want to continue to like it… at least in my head.

  • Leslie says:

    I’m with Tisha — don’t mess with my good memories.

    A couple of things I do remember: Alan Arkin invited a bunch of his now-grown campers (I think he says they’re from the “golden years”), but these were the only ones to sign on. And I think they all spent part (most?) of every summer there growing up, which is why they not only remember names, but are still friends, too.

    I’m looking forward to *Summer School.* You *are* doing *Summer School,* right?

  • rhiannon says:

    I’m pretty sure I really liked this when it came out; I’m pretty sure that I really couldn’t have been more than 11 when it came, and what was I doing watching it?

    The two guys are supposed to be the Roots guys, and my mom totally has the Hudson Bay point blanket coat that Alan Arkin is rocking in that photo.

  • DensityDuck says:

    One thing I’ve learned is that I should never, ever go back to anything that I liked before I went to college. This includes media, places, and people. (Family is excepted.) No matter what it is, it will never be as big and as loud and as colorful and as funny and as good as it was when I was eight, or twelve, or sixteen.

  • Tara says:

    This plot is hilarious to me because it’s so clear they started with two Canadian guys and then tried to make something interesting out of it. It’s harder than it looks.

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