I feel guilty when sharing my honest opinion about films like the musical “Best Summer Ever,” which simply isn’t a very good movie. It’s brimming with good intentions, and its positive representation of the differently-abled is to be commended, but that’s where the praise ultimately stops. This not-quite-unwatchable movie about true love doesn’t really have enough positives to recommend, but the niche audience for which it is crafted will find much to appreciate.
The original musical features disabled talent both in front of and behind the camera, which is an admirable step that promotes inclusivity in the industry. The story is as cookie-cutter as they come: high school football star Tony (Rickey Alexander Wilson) dreams of being a dancer, but doesn’t want to let his coach know about his aspirations for fear of causing serious disappointment. At a summer camp for talented teens, Tony meets a singer named Sage (Shannon DeVido) who lives the nomad lifestyle in a camper van with her two moms, and the young talents fall hopelessly in love. Thinking they’ll not likely see each other again, it’s a huge surprise when it turns out the new girl at Tony’s school is none other than the one he pledged his heart to over the summer.
The idealized romance is filled with those gosh darn cute moments that make it tough to resist. It’s a plucky blast of positivity that’s reminiscent of a Disney-esque, feel-good ray of sunshine that will have even the harshest of cynics reluctantly cracking a smile.
To praise the film’s inclusivity is an important given, but it’s not fair to grade the musical on a sliding scale. The eight original songs are objectively terrible, with abysmal lyrics and substandard performances. The actors can sing well enough, but none are so good that they would ever make it as professional singers. The acting is highly exaggerated, and every character puts a little too much gravy on their lines. I suppose you can say that’s the case for many musicals when translated to film, but it’s especially distracting here.
“Best Summer Ever” is very p.c., but some of the writing is a little too politically correct and sticks out like a sore thumb. Regardless, you have to applaud the effort of filmmakers Michael Parks Randa and Lauren Smitelli for putting their money where their mouths are when it comes to fully embracing diversity.
By: Louisa Moore