Review of Red Hook Summer

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A middle-class boy from Atlanta finds his worldview changed as he spends the summer with his deeply religious grandfather in the housing projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn.
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Movie Review: "Red Hook Summer"

Rating: R
Length: 121 minutes
Release Date: August 10, 2012
Directed by: Spike Lee
Genre: Drama
Stars: 2 out of 5

Spike Lee is the type of director whom fans either love or hate. His latest film, "Red Hook Summer," has the same style of directing that keeps fans divided. Jones finished working on the film in less than 20 days, being the film's director, writer and one of the main stars. On the surface, this is a movie that focuses on a young boy who must move to Red Hook, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Those who dig deeper will find a film fraught with subtext and hidden meanings.

Flik Royale (newcomer Jules Brown) is a 13-year-old boy who lives in Atlanta. When his mother needs to send him away, he was sent to his grandfather. Da Good Bishop Enoch Rouse (Clarke Peters, "Endgame") is a preacher who seemingly just wants what is best for his grandson. As the film progresses, the audience learns that Da Good Bishop might have something else on his mind.

While "Red Hook Summer" has the classic elements that Lee uses in all his movies, the film seems to lack an attention to detail. The movie jumps from scene to scene with rarely a thought to what came before, which makes the film seem disjointed. When the scenes pop, those moments pop, but when the movie falters, those scenes drag down the rest of the film. The positive side for Lee's fans is that those good moments are often strong enough to keep the audience entertained.

Some of the best moments come when Da Good Bishop holds court. Since this is a Lee story, the good preacher doesn't have his own church in the city. His group meets inside a tiny basement where he holds court every Sunday. Flik serves as the narrator for the story, telling the audience that his grandfather first started holding sermons there 15 years ago.

From the moment that Flik walks into his grandfather's life, he finds himself in a new and different world. Flik comes from a world where the newest technologies rule and children never want for anything. He even struts around the neighborhood with an iPad in his hands. His grandfather decides that the boy needs some structure and ground rules. He demands that Flik eat dinner with his family every night, follow set rules every day, attend church, and do whatever he says. Flik must even take on a job, which makes him feel uncomfortable and unhappy.

Lee takes special pains to show the diversity between the life Flik had and the life he has with his grandfather. At certain points in the film, he goes overboard in his attempts to show the different classes, which might make some viewers feel like he is banging the message over their heads. It doesn't help that later in the film Flik meets a young woman named Chazz (newcomer Toni Lysaith). Unlike Flik, Chazz is a poor daughter of a single mother and actually has an interest in the church.

The real highlights of the movie come when the two teenagers share the screen. From the early moments when they flirt with each other to the later moments when they finally realize they have a connection, the two characters keep the audience entertained. The two characters share a refreshing chemistry that some of Lee's more recent films lacked.

"Red Hook Summer" shares some similarities with Lee's previous films. The movie takes place in a neighborhood similar to those seen in his other movies, and Lee himself makes an appearance as a pizza deliveryman named Mookie. Fans of Lee's work will remember the character from "Do the Right Thing." Unfortunately, his character only appears for a few minutes, and when he disappears, it might leave some viewers wanting more.

The first hour of the film is a little too long and drawn out. Lee spends far too much time showing the changes between Flik's current and past lives, and the director focuses too much on background information that doesn't seem to matter much in the grand scheme of things. When the film reaches its halfway point, it shocks the audience with a revelation about Flik that explains why he came to Brooklyn. That one moment will have watchers going back over the first half of the movie and realizing the importance of those earlier scenes.

"Red Hook Summer" is by no means a bad movie, but it does suffer from some slight problems, and most of those problems are Lee's fault. He tries too hard to push a message on viewers and spends too much time reaching his conclusion, which might turn off some viewers. While it does have some good moments, the biggest fans of "Red Hook Summer" might be Lee's diehard fans.