A Plumm Summer
Directed by Caroline Zelder
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 101 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
MSRP: $ 24.99
Release Date: May 5, 2009
Review Date: April 22, 2009
A family film that spreads its elements a bit too thin for maximum effect with any of them, Caroline Zelder’s A Plumm Summer is still entertaining in spots. A comedy-drama with its heart in the right place, the film is unambitious but sweet and unassuming earning a place for itself with a fine cast, some beautiful locales, and a mildly interesting family dynamic.
The marionette Froggy Doo is the big star of local children’s TV in 1968 Montana, and when it’s stolen during a benefit performance, its owner Happy Herb (Henry Winkler) is as bereft as if he had lost a child. Also bereft is five year old Rocky Plumm (Owen Pearce), so much so that his older brother Elliott (Chris J. Kelly) and his new friend Haley (Morgan Flynn) begin playing detective to track down the missing puppet. It couldn’t come at a better time since Elliott and Rocky’s parents (William Baldwin, Lisa Guerrero) have hit a rough patch in their relationship, and Haley’s widowed father (Tim Quill) is disturbed by his daughter’s inability to make new friends.
The story of the abduction of the irrepressible TV favorite is based on a true incident, and the script by T. J. Lynch, director Caroline Zelder, and producer Frank Antonelli takes that fact and weaves through it a story of a family at its breaking point (father and mother bickering, father and oldest son estranged) to concoct a tale that’s part comedy, part domestic drama, part mystery, and part young love story. With the plot spinning off in so many directions, it’s little wonder that the film doesn’t quite manage to feel seamless but seem rather like a patchwork quilt coming together from scraps of various other garments being woven together in erratic fashion. The mystery is the weakest element of the concoction though the writers have attempted to throw in some red herrings to keep that part of the movie attention-worthy. Much better is the sibling dynamic between older brother Elliott and younger brother Rocky, necessary since dad spends much of his free time at the town bar drowning his sorrows over a promising boxing career that withered with the responsibilities of a new family. The scenes of the brothers together, sometimes sarcastic but often filled with filial devotion, are certainly among the film’s best, most realistic moments. Also a standout is the climactic confrontation between Elliott and his imprisoned father where the two actors play off each other’s emotions superbly, all captured in riveting close-ups. Additionally, a climactic excursion down some river rapids adds a little action to the mystery’s somewhat shaky conclusion.
Helming her first film, director Caroline Zelder elicits excellent performances from the young people in the cast, all engaging and believably childlike. As for the adults, William Baldwin excels as the delinquent dad while Henry Winkler's disarming personality makes for a fine children’s TV host. Brenda Strong as his wife gives the game away slightly in a too-early scene while Lisa Guerrero has the right amount of solidity as the supportive mother of the two boys. Comedy is supplied in great measure by two FBI agents played by Peter Scolari and Rick Overton, the former dour and humorless and the latter good natured and relatively clueless. Jeff Daniels narrates the tale with the nostalgic folksiness that puts the audience at its ease.
The film has been framed at 1.78:1 and is anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. Color values are the most striking aspect of the transfer with green being handled especially well in all its many hues in the summertime Montana locations. Flesh tones are attractively natural, and the transfer is free of any dirt or age-related artifacts. Sharpness is sometimes questionable, however, with most scenes crisp while others seem filtered and sometimes a bit digital in appearance. The film has been divided into 18 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix concentrates on the front channels to the almost complete exclusion of the rear ones. There are one or two thunder rumbles that make their way to the rears, and occasionally music seeps back there as well, but for the most part, the audio mix remains front centric with no use of the LFE channel.
The disc contains an audio commentary featuring director Caroline Zelder and her producing partner Frank Antonelli. Ms. Zelder is very enthusiastic about her first feature and carries on a very lively conversation with Mr. Antonelli for the entire running time of the movie. Fans of the movie will find it worth a listen.
A 4-minute gag reel is presented in nonanamorphic letterbox.
There are three deleted scenes which may be viewed individually or in one 2 ½ minute grouping. They are presented in nonanamorphic letterbox.
A behind-the-scenes music video showing the cast and crew at work while the song “They’re Gonna Put Me in the Movies” plays on the soundtrack lasts 2 ½ minutes. It’s presented in 4:3.
A montage of interviews on the red carpet at the film’s Hollywood premiere and at the after party is in 4:3 and lasts 6 ¼ minutes.
The film’s original theatrical trailer giving the impression the film is more of a thriller than it is runs for 2 ¼ minutes in anamorphic widescreen.
A sweet family film with a touch of romance, comedy, mystery, and domestic drama, A Plumm Summer may not weave all of these elements together into a silky smooth package, but it’s entertaining enough for families to enjoy together. That’s something of a rare achievement in today’s Hollywood.