Best Summer Ever Parent Guide
This movie is more focused on selling a message than telling a believable story.
Parent Movie Review
After a romantic summer at dance camp, Sage (Shannon DeVido) and Tony (Rickey Alexander Wilson) go their separate ways. Tony back to the small town where he’s the football team’s great hope for victory after a 25 year drought. Sage to life on the road with her drug-dealing mothers. When their trailer breaks down, Sage’s family parks for the winter and Sage enrolls in high school, only to run into Tony at a pep rally. But this is no rapturous reunion – Tony told Sage he was from New York and his lies are a barrier between them.
Determined to keep the lovebirds apart is Beth (Madeline Rhodes), captain of the cheerleading squad and resident mean girl. She’s obsessed with two things: becoming homecoming queen and dating Tony. Working with an infatuated quarterback, she sets out to make as much trouble as possible, adding blackmail to the usual high school bully’s tool kit.
Clearly, Best Summer Ever doesn’t cover new ground in terms of plot. Anyone who has seen Grease knows exactly what’s going to happen. Where this production blazes new trails is casting. It has an impressively diverse cast, with a lead actress who uses an electric wheelchair. Actors with spina bifida, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, and other disabilities get more screen time here than in any other film that comes to mind. Throw in strong themes of embracing diversity, being true to yourself, and following your dreams, and this is a film with some pretty solid messages.
Sadly, that’s about all this movie has going for it. It has so many flaws they’re hard to itemize. But I’ll start with the biggest problem: it’s hard to make musicals feel real – after all, regular people don’t break into song and dance routines at random moments. A great musical, like Fiddler on the Roof, can transcend the genre and become a human story that’s enhanced by the music. Best Summer Ever doesn’t even get close. Frankly, it’s hard not to roll your eyes at amateurish lyrics like: “I met a guy up in Vermont. He gave me more than I could want”.
Junior high lyrics aside, the core problem here is that this movie is more focused on selling a message than telling a story. All the good intentions and earnest social messages in the world can’t save a film with a predictable story and flat characters, especially when there’s no chemistry between the romantic leads. (And don’t even get me started on the over-the-top evil cheerleader caricature.)
Surprisingly for such a preachy flick, Best Summer Ever comes with an unusual amount of negative content. Most disturbing for parents will be the movie’s explicit endorsement of drug use. Sage’s mothers not only roll their own, they also run a marijuana grow op and travel the country selling pot. This is presented neutrally and it’s seen as a romantic gesture when Tony helps them evade law enforcement. Throw in twenty-plus profanities and this show isn’t going to hit anyone’s wish list for family movie night.
The movie’s manifold flaws are all the more mystifying in light of the Hollywood powerhouses behind it. The executive producers are Maggie Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Amy Brenneman, and Jamie Lee Curtis. Clearly they’ve put their considerable clout behind the movie’s positive messages. But couldn’t they have also insisted on a believable, watchable story? Then this could have had a shot at being “best movie ever” instead of a public service announcement with weird drug messaging.Directed by Michael Parks Randa & Lauren Smitelli. Starring Eric Carl Adams, Maya Albanese, and Giulia Alexander. Running time: 72 minutes. Theatrical release April 27, 2021. Updated April 27, 2021
Watch the trailer for Best Summer Ever
Best Summer Ever
Rating & Content Info
Why is Best Summer Ever rated Not Rated? Best Summer Ever is rated Not Rated by the MPAA
Violence: A character pushes someone over. A main character slams a door on someone’s wrist. Football players have a fight with hitting and shoving. A character tries to lock someone in a hallway. A character gets hit in the head with a door. Someone is accidentally hit in the head with a football.
Sexual Content: A young man and woman kiss on several occasions. A main character makes a crude sexual comment.
Profanity: There are just under 20 swear words, including terms of deity, anatomical expressions, and minor curse words. There is a scatological curse word, and another in German. A character makes a sexual finger gesture.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adults discuss the sale of marijuana. An adult is seen smoking a joint. A marijuana grow op is an important plot point and evading law enforcement is seen as a good thing.
Page last updated April 27, 2021
Best Summer Ever Parents' Guide
What barriers exist for the disabled in your community? How can you help people with disabilities feel welcome in your school?
Related home video titles:
For a more cheerful summer camp movie, check out the Christian musical, A Week Away.
The disabled have fought for years to be mainstreamed with other citizens and to enjoy their civic rights. For a documentary about a summer camp that gave disabled kids self-confidence and the skills to lobby for change, check out Crip Camp. A dramatized true story, Music Within tells the story of two disabled Americans who fought for the rights of the disabled.