Summer seems to be made for kids. Personally, when I was growing up, I lived for the summer. I loved it and never understood how any of my classmates could say they got bored during the summer. I have always suspected that I became a teacher because of having summer vacations. One fellow teacher even told me there were only three advantages to being a teacher: June, July, and August.
An obvious recommendation would be To Kill a Mockingbird, but I have selected four other films that involve the lives of kids during the summer. All of these display commendable performances by the lead youngsters: David Arnott, Elijah Wood, Michael-James Wixted, and Sam Huntington.
1. CrissCross (1992) with Goldie Hawn, Arliss Howard, James Gammon, Steve Buscemi, Keith Carradine, and David Arnott: This movie is carried on the young shoulders of 12-year-old David Arnott (photos above and below)as the 12-year-old Chris Cross. Chris lives in a run-down hotel in Key West, and it is 1969 when Neil Armstrong was landing on the moon. Chris’s mom (Goldie Hawn) has trouble making ends meet as a single parent so she graduates from waiting tables to being a dancer at a local strip club. Chris’s father (Keith Carradine) was a fighter pilot in Vietnam, suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome, divorced his mother, and became the groundskeeper at a monastery.
Chris does odd jobs like cleaning the hotel’s swimming pool to make money to help out. The job that gets him into trouble is one in which the hotel chef sends him on. He picks up fish from a ship in the harbor. One day his dog Rebel bites into one of the fish, and Chris discovers it is filled with cocaine. That’s when Chris gets the idea to become a dealer to make enough money so his mother won’t have to be a stripper.
A stranger named Joe (Arliss Howard) shows up at the hotel and hits it off with Chris’s mom. Chris resents this and wants his mom to get back with his dad, but he eventually realizes this won’t happen. But Joe is not quite the struggling writer that he claims to be.
Chris narrates portions of the film and admits that his life is all messed up. David Arnott makes you like the kid no matter what he does. Mr. Arnott never made another film. I and many other admirers have wondered why. He answered us on February 10, 2009, on the IMDb website: “I’m alright. Love to build, am an electrician living the quiet life in Oregon. Why? Never wanted to be that guy or got caught up in surviving. Either way Thanks. David Arnott”
2. Flipper (1996) with Elijah Wood, Paul Hogan, Isaac Hayes, Jonathan Banks, Jason Fuchs, and Chelsea Field: Not exactly a remake of the original, this version has Sandy (Elijah Wood) as the nephew of Porter Ricks (Paul Hogan) instead of father and son. Sandy is not native to the Florida Keys; instead he is a 15-year-old jerk from Chicago who is sent by his mother to Porter for the summer. Porter says, “I’ll straighten him out.” This is a family film, so you know in advance that Sandy will be a pretty good guy by the end of the movie.
Like the original, there is a hurricane that damages Porter’s fishing boat. While he is away from home repairing the boat, Sandy is supposed to get the messed up house back in shape. However, Sandy gets distracted by becoming friends with a dolphin he names Flipper.
Luke Halpin, who lived the role of Sandy in two feature films and a long-running TV series, makes an appearance in this film. However, as many times as I’ve watched this movie, I’ve never seen anyone in it that looks remotely like Mr. Halpin. The cast credits are no help. Meanwhile, Mr. Wood carries on the tradition, albeit with dark hair so we never have a clue where his nickname “Sandy” comes from.
The first film emphasized a “save the dolphins” theme. While this one veers in that direction, it mainly stresses an environmental issue. Somebody is dumping hazardous waste canisters right in the middle of a prime fishing area. That somebody is played by Jonathan Banks in such a deliciously evil way that any viewer will want to push Porter Ricks aside and be the one who punches his face in.
Admittedly, this is not a great film; but it has a likeable cast and a worthy message (maybe even more than one message). And it is a lot of fun.
3. Islands in the Stream (1977) with George C. Scott, David Hemmings, Gilbert Roland, Hart Bochner, Michael-James Wixted, Brad Savage, and Claire Bloom: This is a realistic “family film” adapted from Ernest Hemingway’s incomplete final novel that was published after his death. Hemingway is portrayed under the pseudonym of Thomas Hudson by George C. Scott in one of his finest performances. Instead of a writer, Hudson is a sculptor, but it’s obvious who he is from the start.
This is a three-part movie, but I am only recommending the splendid first two parts. The movie falls apart in Part 3, and that is probably why Hemingway never figured out what to do with the novel. Hemingway had already written Part 3 in another book, and it has already been filmed much better with the superb cast of Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Walter Brennan in To Have and Have Not. Hence, I suggest ending your viewing of this movie at the end of Part 2.
In Part One: The Boys, the three sons of Thomas Hudson come to visit him on a Caribbean island for their summer vacation shortly before the U.S. entered WWII. The oldest is Tommy, played by Hart Bochner, whose mother was the only wife Hudson ever truly loved. Tommy is planning to join the Canadian air corps to help Britain against Germany. The other sons are from his second and less successful marriage. Michael-James Wixted, quite impressive in his only big screen role, is the troubled middle brother David, who remembers how his mother and Hudson fought and is hostile to his father. Brad Savage is the youngest, Andrew, who seems to understand the moods of David the most.
There are some fine, memorable scenes: Tommy is attacked by a shark and is saved by Eddy, David Hemmings (Walter Brennan in the earlier film). David latches on to a marlin, which he comes to love (reminiscent of Spencer Tracy in The Old Man and the Sea).
Tommy tells Hudson that it is well that he loves David the most because “He is the best of us.” The old man is surprised by that observation, but he brings Tommy back into a more appropriate perspective: “I’ve loved you the longest.”
Part Two: The Woman is brief, but poignant. Some time after the boys have left, Hudson receives a surprise visit from Audrey, his first wife, portrayed by the still beautiful Claire Bloom. Awkwardly trying to be cordial, Hudson suddenly realizes her visit has a purpose.
Parts One and Two are interesting and beautifully realized,and they are punctuated with an atmospheric score by Jerry Goldsmith. George C. Scott may never have been better.
4. Jungle 2 Jungle (1997) with Tim Allen, Martin Short, JoBeth Williams, David Ogden Stiers, Leelee Sobieski, Frankie J. Galasso, and Sam Huntington: Just about all the critics dismissed this as being a bad remake of a particularly awful French film from a few years earlier. However, I admit this purely escapist fare is among my “guilty pleasures.”
Tim Allen is either the weakest link in this enjoyable little movie, or he is one of the reasons it works – if it does work. He plays a stockbroker named Michael Cromwell, who is supposed to be excruciatingly boring; but Mr. Allen plays him as being witty and hams it up so much that his “Michael Cromwell’ is kind of fun and likeable – hence, Mr. Allen doesn’t quite fit the part. The guy he plays is a successful Wall Streeter who lives 24/7/365 thinking stock prices. His wife, we learn, wisely gave up on him and moved to the Venezuelan jungle to be a doctor among the natives.
The film begins with Tim Allen finding someone who can tolerate him and is willing to marry him. Therefore, he flies to South America to get his wife (JoBeth Williams) to sign divorce papers. She is perfectly willing, but she has a 13-year-old son – his son, Mimi-Siku. The chief of the tribe gives Mimi-Siku the assignment of bringing to the tribe the fire from the Statue of Liberty, and Tim OBLIGATES himself to take Mimi home with him – and hence, to the second jungle, New York City.
This is a Walt Disney film, and there are numerous references that promote some of Disney’s animated franchises. Mimi-Siku is referred to as “Tarzan” and “Young Mowgli;” and he does, in fact, have a preference for his jungle loin cloth attire. Sam Huntington handles all this with such confidence and casualness that it probably WOULD be accepted in New York City, where just about everything is routine. The film really belongs to Mr. Huntington and not to Mr. Allen.
Things get really awkward when Cromwell’s partner (Martin Short) doesn’t sell a coffee investment when he was supposed to. The only buyer they can find is the Russian mafia. So Cromwell has to deal with an unhappy boss, a godfather, an unhappy fiancée, and Mimi-Siku all at the same time. You can really enjoy this if you don’t take it too seriously. The cast definitely has a good time.
By David Offutt, July 2007 (slightly revised Jan. 15, 2012, to update Mr. Arnott’s disappearance from acting)