Sundance 2012 Review: Spike Lee's RED HOOK SUMMER

Director Spike Lee returns to Brooklyn with his new indie film Red Hook Summer, which takes place in the same world as Do The Right Thing. It even includes the character Mookie from that film, although he's only in a couple of scenes. I hoped the movie would actually focus on that character a little more and continue his story.

I wasn't really sure what to expect from the film. Lee's movies are hit and miss for me, and I didn't like Red Hook Summer at all. The story basically follows a young boy who goes to live with his grandfather, played by The Wire's Clarke Peters, in Brooklyn for the summer. This is the first time he's ever met his grandpa who is the preacher of the local church.

Watching is movie was like sitting through a two hour church sermon. The preacher is on a mission to get his grandson to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, and that's something the audience has to endure. I don't have a problem with religion, but listening to this preaching go on for as long as it did just got annoying. Going into a Spike Lee joint you know you're going to get a lot of political talk and rants about how bad America is right now with everything going on. Unfortunately, the script was terrible, and the filmmaking was simply lazy. This was not Lee's best work.

That wasn't the worst part of the film though. The worst part of Red Hook Summer were the two kids that Lee cast. I know they're just children, but I also know that there are children that can act. These kids gave very wooden performances, like they were reading their dialogue right off the page for the first time. I'm sure they did they best they could, but I wasn't drawn in, and they had to deliver some deep heavy dialogue that I just didn't find believable. Clarke Peters' performance was actually the best part of the movie; he was great!

It's hard to get into details about the movie without spoiling anything, but like Do The Right Thing everything that happens and is said in this film leads to a shocking ending, and it's the ending that made this story somewhat interesting. I don't think it's worth watching though. If you're a Spike Lee fan then I'm sure you'll go out and see the movie anyway, I just don't think you'll be happy with the outcome. So far it doesn't seem like anyone else I've talked to has liked the movie either.

For me, Red Hook Summer was simply a waste of time.

Here's the synopsis:

When his mom deposits him at the Red Hook housing project in Brooklyn to spend the summer with the grandfather he’s never met, young Flik may as well have landed on Mars. Fresh from his cushy life in Atlanta, he’s bored and friendless, and his strict grandfather, Enoch, a firebrand preacher, is bent on getting him to accept Jesus Christ as his personal savior. Only Chazz, the feisty girl from church, provides a diversion from the drudgery. As hot summer simmers and Sunday mornings brim with Enoch’s operatic sermons, things turn anything but dull as people’s conflicting agendas collide.

Playfully ironic, heightened, yet grounded, Spike Lee’s bold new movie returns him to his roots, where lovable, larger-than-life characters form the tinderbox of a tight-knit community. A story about the coexistence of altruism and corruption, Red Hook Summer toys with expectations, seducing us with the promise of moral and spiritual transcendence. Spike is back in the ’hood.

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