From the popular television series documentary, the two actors Ben Affleck and Matt Damon created a competition where they enlist someone to create a screenplay and with one-million dollars, direct the movie which would be released into theaters. Young writer Pete Jones won and "Stolen Summer" is the end result.
In the movie, set in 1976, young boy Pete O'Malley (newcomer Adiel Stein) lives in a suburb with his Irish Catholic family. He is told by a nun he will go to hell if he continues his bratty ways. Scared by this comment (who wouldn't be?), he decides to go on a "quest" and convert a Jewish person into a Catholic so they can get to heaven. He then meets Jewish boy Danny Jacobsen (newcomer Mike Weinberg), the son of a rabbi who is suffering from Leukemia, and the two go on a "quest" to get Danny into heaven.
I was rather curious to see this, due to the amount of attention this received from many. The entire movie is simple and straight to the point with some good stuff to it. The plot is interesting intriguing with some funny moments as Jones establishes the characters and family. The entire movie relies on the performance of Adiel Stein, who does a pretty good job in the film.
He's charming and wide-eyed with a lot of enthusiasm and does a good job in the movie. The best aspects of this movie, though, are the character actors that make this movie enjoyable. Bonnie Hunt is the sympathetic and mousey mother who displays some grit in the movie. She and Aidan Quinn have good chemistry together throughout the movie and is believable as the mother. Aidan Quinn gives an excellent performance as the workaday tough father who yells a lot at his children but is still a very loveable guy underneath. He's a great and very interesting character and Aidan Quinn gives a charming performance.
Kevin Pollak plays Rabbi Jacobsen, the father of Danny, the ailing boy who suffers from Leukemia throughout the entire movie, and he gives an incredible performance. He manages to squeeze a gritty but loveable out of this movie, letting the audience feel for his character. He helps this movie along a lot. Probably the best part of this movie is the screenplay which Pete Jones supplies well. The dialogue is great with a lot of witty and sweet monologues that help the characters well. Pete Jones' script make this movie very enjoyable and sweet.
The problem with this movie is that, though enjoyable, has many many sub- plots that could have potentially made this movie memorable, but rarely ever follows through with them. The two boys take the "decathlon for heaven" theme, yet its never truly emphasized upon, so it seems inadequate.
We have the young boy with leukemia, but his character isn't shown much, nor is his plot truly focused on, so we never really feel sorry for him, and we have the good sub-plot with Eddie Kaye Thomas (American Pie, 2) who wants to go to med school but is being held back by his father. That sub-plot was very interesting and could have served as an ally plot for the movie, but its never really focused on, nor is Eddie Kaye Thomas ever given a chance to flex his acting chops to his full extent.
Not to mention, Brian Dennehy, who has a small inept role as the reverend of the catholic church who pops out occasionally without any true reason to. Why is he here in this movie? He often looks like a lost child, drifting in and out of the movie with no real impact or direction with his character. The movie has unusual and senseless aspects that never really give us an answer, and a lot of plot holes and continuity problems.
For example, did this movie really have to be set in the seventies? I didn't see any true aspect that individualized this from a modern story. None of the characters looked like they were from the seventies, and none of the scenes resembled anything from that era, except for the occasional object here and there that reminds us its in the seventies. The movie also has some continuity problems that ruin the movie.
Take a look at the end where Joe and son, Patrick share a beer "for the first time", you'll notice a staggering problem that ruins the scene and its sentimentality, and leaves you scratching your head asking questions aloud to yourself. Though, the writing is good, the directing is pretty basic and there's nothing really outstanding.
You never truly get the feeling this guy will become a real marvel of moviemaking. Some of the scenes are shaky, poorly lit, and off-key, and sometimes, it looks like Pete doesn't know where to stand often trailing behind the actors or bashing into them. The plain fact of the matter, folks, is that the show was more interesting than the actual movie, this could have been made by anyone and probably better, and there's nothing in this to truly make it a memorable movie.
Despite all the flaws, plot holes, and continuity screw-ups, this was an enjoyable and sweet movie with a cute story. Pete Jones may not be a director, but he can sure write. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon has decided to play it smart for the next "Project: Green light" and are enlisting both a screenplay writer and a real director, separately. Hope next time around, it works.