“The Last Summer” is a wafer-thin Netflix teen romance starring a Kiwi (New Zealander) leading lady, an Australian leading man, a tale set in Chicago but shot (mostly) in Cleveland.
So kind of fake feeling? Sure.
Cluttered with too many mostly-amiable characters to reasonably follow and keep track of, a movie that wants a little frat boy smirk and a little “woke” in its gumbo, it’s the sort of comedy (one laugh) that you’re glad is on Netflix.
You can tune in and tune out, walk out of the room for a snack or bathroom break and not resent one and all for burning through 110 minutes of your life.
The laziest thing in such screenplays is that insipid, “Don’t forget your sunscreen” narrated opening, a quasi-poetic scene-setter that really, film schools should start flunking wannabes for trotting out so that it’ll stop
“Summer break, one last chance to not care, to call it off, to get it on, to make plans or make a plan B,” hunky Griffin (K.J. Apa) intones, “ne last chance to love yourself.”
He’d love to put himself in music school, but hardcase Dad (Ed Quinn) got him into Columbia — business school.
Phoebe (Maia Mitchell) is finishing her Adler High School career by making a documentary about her classmates’ hopes, dreams, love affairs they expect to continue post graduation, the works.
“Name the one thing you want to accomplish in your college experience.”
“To not have my stomach pumped.”
Phoebe is NYU Film School bound, so maybe Griffin, who crushes on her and helps her with the audio for her doc can make her “finally let my guard down.”
Erin (Halston Sage) and Alec (Jacob Latimore) decide to break up graduation night, move on with their college and love lives.
Foster (Wolfgang Novogratz) is the handsome jock who works with Alec coating driveways. Foster wants a summer hookup — or five — to tide him over.
Audrey (Sosie Bacon, daughter of Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon) is clinging to her last hope for college,and even though she’s had to work so much in recent years, Clark College feels like quite the comedown.
“Do I really wanna spend four years in Dubuque?” she asks BFF Erin. “Hurts my heart.”
Reece and Chad (Mario Revolori and Jacob McCarthy) are stuck in summer gigs as “yogurt dorks” at the local dessert shop.
And Mason (Norman Johnson Jr.) just wants to grow his dreads, enjoy some weed and perfect his skateboarding.
They’ve got “72 days to act on old crushes, make a few stupid decisions. What’s there to lose?”
Aside from 110 minutes? Nothing.
The thing is, for all the romantic mixing and matching, all the wrinkles dredged up and tossed into this mix, we know what you did “The Last Summer.” Or will do. The formula is that iron clad.
Bonfires on the beach, demeaning summer jobs or internships, a house party lit and decorated like a movie set idea of a nightclub, a sometimes smirking attitude towards sex, one kid’s parent is cheating with another kid’s parent, Audrey gets a “personal assistant” job basically acting as a nanny for a child actress whose Mom was an extra in “Sixteen Candles” and Erin dates a Chicago Cub (Tyler Posey).
It’s an updating of the Chicago teen comedies of John Hughes, without the late filmmaker’s retrograde views on race and women (still objectified and judged), but without wit or warmth either.
The “Wedding Crashers” story borrowing has Chad and Reece pass for stock traders, drinking at downtown bars and picking up young female traders.
The “Say Anything” riff is two lovers figuring out their parents’ BIG flaws.
And on and on the script goes, more borrowings than a lending library.
I almost grinned at Griffin’s punky 12 year-old guitar lesson students, but truthfully, there’s only one laugh in this.
Foster is desperately seeking Susan, or whoever, as a summer hookup. He even hits on the class Show Christian, the “Jesus girl.” Ends up at dinner with her family.
She is just saying grace when the girl’s kid brother leans in to Foster and stage whispers, “Dude, give it up.”
Bacon is the most interesting performer here, but her character’s story is, like all the others, shortchanged. The main romance has the most potential, and two stars with something like chemistry, but feels perfunctory. The “deep insights” documentary won’t feel deep to anybody over 15 (kind of the point, but hey).
It’s a pretty but lifeless confection, sort of the Netflix house style. But most Netflix teen comedies — and I’ve reviewed dozens — have more edge and humor than this.
Frankly, I’d suggest the screenwriting Brindle Brothers (William also directed it) maybe go back and watch all the movies you’re borrowing from again.
And maybe steal the GOOD parts next time.
MPAA Rating: TV-14
Cast: K.J. Apa, Maia Mitchell, Norman Johnson Jr., Sosie Bacon, Halston Sage
Credits: Directed by William Bindley, script by Scott Bindley, William Bindley. A Netflix Original.
Running time: 1:49