2 out of 5
Directed by: François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell
From the directors of Turbo Kid, Summer of 84 ditches that film’s entertaining moments of excess, which leaves us with the remnants: surface-level nostalgia (a synth score; rad-colored shoes; Rush posters) and plodding scripting. I enjoyed Turbo Kid, but that was the big mystery with that film’s construction, that so much visual “noise” could come across as so little. While Summer of 84 appreciably constructs a pre-internet friendship for four suburban-dwelling youths, it dawdles for way too long on very little and – a friendly spoiler – for nothing that comes close to a satisfying payoff.
Davey, Tommy, Dale and Curtis hang in their tree house, look at a nudie mag, and pick on each other the way friends do. One of the kids is smarter, one is overweight, one is the rebel, one is the dreamer. That last one is Davey, our point-of-view, whose conspiracy-minded interests convince him that nextdoor neigher Wayne is a serial killer. Notes of Goonies and, if you’re being generous, Rear Window, poke through as Davey convinces his friends to spy on Wayne, the evidence towards something or other piles up.
The four boys are great together. Their casting is age appropriate, and the playful bickering amongst them is believable; they make sense as friends. I found myself wondering at some coming-of-age drama just focusing on that group, as writers Matt Leslie and Stephen J. Smith do actually dribble background info on the four throughout that somewhat fleshes out their personas beyond the above one-word adjectives. Alas, this isn’t a pastiche of 80s coming-of-age, aiming much more for something in the adventure vein with some horror sprinkled atop. But double alas, that side of the flick never gains much steam, even when it tries to go beyond its “that’s it?” conclusion, resulting in a repeat of the same: “that’s it?”
Somewhere beneath the dedicated production design and era-apropos music, Summer of 84 has bits and pieces that could’ve worked as… various things: drama, thriller, comedy, horror. As is, it maintains a pleasantly watchable vibe, but doesn’t manage to work as a whole in a satisfying way.