A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
All people deserve equal treatment regardless of age, race, gender, background, or ability. It's important to be true to yourself and authentic with those around you. "Normalcy breeds complacency." Bribing people to like you generally doesn't work. "Be the change the world needs." High schools everywhere apparently follow social hierarchies with football players and cheerleaders at the top.
Positive Role Models
Some parents offer their kids unfailing support. They also engage in illegal activities, though they explain these as being about service to others. Other adults pressure teens to perform or fulfill a dream that might not be their own. A man steps in to care for two boys when their parents die. Sage and Tony both keep a secret from the other, despite their budding romance. Beth and Cody scheme to use gossip to hurt two classmates for their own selfish purposes. Characters positively represent different abilities and races.
Violence & Scariness
A girl's arm is broken when a door is shut on it, and she lets out a long and high-pitched scream. She later gets revenge, possibly accidentally, when she opens the same door and hits the responsible classmate in the head. Tony visits his dead parents' grave site.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sage and Tony kiss. Teen boys and girls flirt with each other. A high school girl adjusts her breasts in her cheerleading uniform. A girl draws a picture of a penis on the mirror in a school bathroom.
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"S--t," "bulls--t," "damn," "goddamn," "damnit," "d--k," "d--khead," "blow me," "ass," "hell," "Oh my God/Goddess," "Jesus," "skank," "stupid," "fool." A girl holds up two middle fingers.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Sage's moms grow and sell marijuana. They talk about serving "cancer patients" and "kids having seizures," but their work forces them to have a nomadic lifestyle and stay a step ahead of the law. In one scene, one of the moms blows a bunch of smoke at the camera.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Best Summer Ever is a teen musical with diverse representations and positive messages about inclusion but also lots of language and a plot line about growing and selling drugs. The teens with disabilities portrayed here include some in wheelchairs, others with Down syndrome, and many with apparent developmental or physical differences. They're treated the same as the abled characters, and most of the characters demonstrate empathy. The lead character has two mothers who make a living growing and selling marijuana. Her boyfriend is struggling with his identity as a football player when all he really wants is to dance. A selfish cheerleader tries to bribe him by threatening to share pictures of him dancing on social media. There's kissing and flirting, a penis drawing, and some un-scary accidents. A teen's parents are dead. A girl holds up two middle fingers; language include "s--t," "bulls--t," "goddamn," "d--k," "ass," "oh my God," and more. Executive producers include Maggie Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ted Danson, Amy Brenneman, and Mary Steenburgen. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This fast-paced, feel-good movie with a message is sure to find an appreciative audience, but it may not draw significant viewers beyond those with a vested interest in the disabled community. That's because Best Summer Ever feels ultimately more concerned with representation than realism, portraying a mix of able-bodied and characters with disabilities that you won't find at most actual high schools. There is, of course, value in this proposal, and the film is still an undeniably fun watch. A kind of companion piece to award-winning 2020 documentary Crip Camp, this teen musical also starts at a real-life camp, Vermont-based Zeno Mountain Farm, that offers retreats for people with (and without) disabilities and other marginalized communities. (Zeno was also behind the 2014 documentary Becoming Bulletproof.)
The acting, singing, and dancing -- particularly from leads DeVido (voice) and Wilson (dance) -- are quite good, and obvious nods to Grease and Footloose are cute. There are a couple of awkward scenes and plot lines that feel off-tone for an otherwise innocent teen musical, like Sage's two drug-dealing moms, excessive swearing, and Beth's sometimes outrageous behavior (though the character, played by singer-actor Mumu, is entertainingly campy). But teens and parents can find plenty of positive messages here about inclusivity, self actualization, and compassion. Watch for cameos from some of the film's celebrity producers and a joyful behind-the-camera finale.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.