Best Summer Ever
Joyous teen musical embraces inclusion; language, drugs.
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Best Summer Ever
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
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What's the Story?
Sage (Shannon DeVido) and Tony (Rickey Alexander Wilson) meet at summer camp and fall in love at the start of BEST SUMMER EVER. But the two live in different parts of the United States, or so they believe. Sage, it turns out, is about to settle down temporarily in Tony's hometown. But she believes that Tony lives elsewhere because he's made up an alternate identity for himself as a New York-based dancer rather than a small-town football player. When the two encounter each other again on the first day of high school, sparks fly. But mean cheerleader Beth (MuMu) and jealous football player Cody (Jacob Waltuck) find out Tony's secret and plan to use it to their advantage. Will Sage's family, who have a secret of their own, settle down? Will Tony find a way to be true to himself without letting down his football-obsessed town?
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.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the idea of a romance between a teen in a wheelchair and a football star, as portrayed in Best Summer Ever. Does the movie make the match feel believable? How so, or not?
Why does Tony feel pressure to be someone he's not? Have you ever felt you had to hide a hobby or passion, or pretend to be someone you weren't? How did you deal with that?
Does this film make distinctions between its characters with disabilities and able-bodied characters? How so, or not?
How do the characters show empathy and compassion for each other? Why are these important character strengths?
- In theaters: May 3, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: April 27, 2021
- Cast: Shannon DeVido, Rickey Alexander Wilson, MuMu
- Directors: Michael Parks Randa, Lauren Smitelli
- Studio: Zeno Mountain Farm
- Genre: Musical
- Topics: Friendship, High School, Music and Sing-Along
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Empathy
- Run time: 118 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: October 8, 2022
Our Editors Recommend
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution
Docu about life-changing camp has violence, language.
Lovely, big-hearted docu about disability inclusion.
Musical hit is still great fun but quite racy, has sexism.
A dated rebellion tale.
A Week Away
Feel-good faith-based camp musical is clean and upbeat.
For kids who love musicals
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