[Screen It]


(2022) (Lia Barnett, Madalen Mills) (PG-13)

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Drama: While enjoying the last days of summer before school starts, four preteen friends discover a man's body and try to uncover his identity and figure out what happened to him.

Daisy (LIA BARNETT), Lola (SANAI VICTORIA), Dina (MADALEN MILLS), and Mari (EDEN GRACE REDFIELD) are best friends about to go separate ways as they enter middle school. Accordingly, they're hoping to enjoy the last vestiges of summer as much as possible, including playing in the local woods.

But it's there that they discover a man's body down below a tall bridge, dressed in a suit but with no identification. While Mari wants to call the police, the other girls convince her not to, thinking it will ruin their last days of summer while also giving them time to play forensic detectives like they've seen on TV.

From that point on, they keep their discovery secret while trying to uncover the man's identity and what happened to him.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10

Back in 1982, Stephen King released what's arguably his greatest literary work, albeit one split into four distinct parts, "Different Seasons." One of my favorite movies of all time, "The Shawshank Redemption," stemmed from one of those (that included a famous movie star of yesteryear in the slightly longer title), while a second one also created another great flick, "Stand By Me."

That one was based on the novella titled "The Body," and revolved around a group of boys in 1959 who hear about a kid that was reportedly struck and killed by a train, and then set out to find the titular remains.

Both the literary work and the film adaptation are terrific views of a bygone era of simpler times where just hanging out with friends was about as good as it got. Throw in a quest, some villains, deep themes, and some insightful narration by one of the characters now grown up, and the results were engaging and moving (not to mention showcasing just how great River Phoenix was and could have been).

Now, thirty-six (gulp) years later, and sort of akin to remaking "Ghostbusters" with all female leads, we have "Summering," a girl twist on what "SBM" did so well from the male prepubescent viewpoint. As directed by James Ponsoldt from a script he wrote with Benjamin Percy, it also features a narrator, a group of close friends, and, yes, a body. But rather than that being the object of a quest, the corpse is found close to the get-go by friends Daisy (Lia Barnett), Lola (Sanai Victoria), Dina (Madalen Mills), and Mari (Eden Grace Redfield).

One of them -- the only reasonable and responsible member of the quartet -- wants to call the police or at least tell their parents, but the others veto that for reasons not altogether believable. And that ends up being a fairly big issue -- along with tonal and ever-changing genre ones -- that ultimately undermine the effort. Notwithstanding that, they decide to play forensic detectives and determine who he was and whether he jumped off the bridge above them...or was possibly pushed or thrown.

Along the way, there are some odd inclusions of horror movie visions of the dead man seemingly haunting the girls, a subplot about one girl's father who abandoned his family, and thematic elements about friendship, growing up, and what could be the last fleeting era of carefree summertime for these children. Granted, finding a body would certainly seem to throw the latter for a loop, but it's simply not played realistically here, thus robbing the film's efforts to engage and move us.

If not for the presence of a lone cell phone and the brief use of a computer, this easily could have taken place in a parallel universe to "Stand By Me." But it wouldn't have taken more than that to be anywhere in its cinematic league. As it stands, "Summering" withers away and rates as a 4 out of 10.

Posted August 12, 2022

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