MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)
Jeff Daniels as NARRATOR
William Baldwin as MICK PLUMM
Henry Winkler as HAPPY HERB
Lisa Guerrero as ROXIE PLUMM
Chris Massoglia as ELLIOTT PLUMM
Owen Pearce as ROCKY PLUMM
Morgan Flynn as HALEY DUBOIS
Brenda Strong as VIV
Tim Quill as WAYNE DUBOIS
Peter Scolari as AGENT HARDIGAN
Rick Overton as AGENT BRINKMAN
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
In a small Montana town in the 1960s, the innocent childhood of several kids is put in jeopardy when the puppet star of a beloved children’s show is kidnapped and held for ransom. Two brothers join with the new girl next door to do their own detective work and discover who took Froggy Doo. During their investigation, the older brother Elliott (Chris Massoglia) must deal with his alcoholic father and his younger brother Rocky (Owen Pearce) who idolizes Froggy Doo.
WHAT I LIKED
Movies like “A Plumm Summer” are very common for the family video crowd. Some can be overly cheesy, and some can be really poorly executed. However, “A Plumm Summer” does manage to have a filmmaking quality that rises above most of its competition. Much of this is due to the talented cast that has been brought into the film.
The child leads are all unknowns, but the adult cast is filled with familiar faces. Henry Winkler plays the host of the television program and Froggy Doo’s owner, and Brenda Strong plays his wife. Entertainment correspondent Lisa Guerrero plays the kids’ mom, while William Baldwin plays the father.
About ninety percent of this film is very age-appropriate and plays well to an audience of young kids. Like many films geared for this demographic, “A Plumm Summer” focuses on the children’s reaction to the events, and it offers a level of empowerment to the kids that watch this.
Finally, I’ve always been harshly critical of films that overuse the true story angle in their marketing. However, with a little bit of research (which quickly led me to “The Life and Times of Froggy Doo” web site at http://www.froggydoo.com/), I discovered that there was plenty of truth in this true story. Sure, a plot was dramatized to make the film work, but the original kidnapping story of Froggy Doo is true.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
While I said that ninety percent of the film is good for the family, there is ten percent that I will caution parents on. The children’s detective story is great for kids, and I almost showed it to my own sons. However, the middle of the film turns unnecessarily dark with the story of Elliott and Rocky’s alcoholic father. Sure, it makes a fine dramatic turn for the film, but if your family isn’t facing an abusive, alcoholic member in the household, this might be a bit too dark for younger viewers.
Other problems with the film include young Owen Pearce as Rocky. He’s exceedingly cute, but his cuteness is milked more than Jonathan Lipnicki in “Jerry Maguire.” Additionally, as charming as Henry Winkler is as Happy Herb the show host, he does seem a bit unstable in the film (evidenced by decorating an entire bedroom for Froggy Doo in his house). It might seem funny at first, but it borderlines on creepy.
Finally, the film takes a decidedly corny turn near the end, but what else would you expect from a family film? I can forgive that.
This DVD comes with a nice assortment of special features, especially for a good-natured indie film. Writer/director Caroline Zelder and writer/producer Frank Antonelli provide a feature-length audio commentary. There’s also several deleted scenes, a gag reel, a behind-the-scenes music video, the original theatrical trailer and a behind-the-scenes featurette on the red carpet of the film’s premiere.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Family audiences and kids looking for a relatively wholesome childhood detective film.