Saturday, August 1, 2009

Movie Review: A Plumm Summer

NEWS FLASH: Froggy Doo has been frognapped! Repeat: Froggy Doo, the beloved and famous frog marionette from televisions top children’s show, has been frognapped! Officials canceled the special benefit local park appearance of Froggy Doo when they were forced to tape off the park and search for clues. Happy Herb, Froggy Doo’s faithful companion, reported that Froggy Doo was last seen safe and comfortable in his case backstage. After a short appearance, Happy Herb went backstage to escort the famous frog to his fans, but Froggy had disappeared. The innocent Montana town has never seen so much drama in one day. Local authorities are on the case, and after the recent discovery of a ransom note, the FBI has come to town. Have you seen Froggy Doo?

But the government has company in its efforts to solve the mystery of Froggy Doo’s disappearance. Elliott Plumm and his younger brother Rocky are also on the case. This will be A Plumm Summer they will never forget.

Narrated by Jeff Daniels, A Plumm Summer is one family-friendly film you won’t want to miss. You’ll love Froggy Doo! And all his pals too! But the story isn’t so much about Froggy Doo. Although writers T.J. Lynch, Frank Antonelli, and Caroline Zelder based the film’s mystery on real events, the movie actually focuses on the fictional elements of the plot – that is, the characters and how they change as Froggy Doo brings them together. The Plumms aren’t perfect, but their flaws ultimately capture the audience’s sympathy and love. True, the acting could be better, and the script could use a few more laughs and a less obvious villain, but by the end of the film, most viewers can’t help but have a “Plumm” of a time.

Chris Massoglia plays the troubled Elliott, who must deal with his younger brother’s obsession with Froggy Doo as well as all the rest of the annoying things that come with being an older brother. Rocky (Owen Pearce) looks up to his brother, who holds a heavy burden keeping his brother ignorant of their father’s alcoholic habits and helping his brother to maintain his childhood innocence. At first, Elliott thinks of his brother as an annoyance and shoves him to the side, but as he begins to solve the case, he not only grows closer to his brother, but he also becomes a stronger, more self-confident person. Any member of a dysfunctional family can relate to Elliott’s troubles, and any teenager can relate to Elliott’s journey as an adolescent.

Henry Winkler, as Happy Herb, will bring a smile to anyone’s face. The true highlight of the film, he treats Froggy Doo and his television audience like children of his own. Although it’s hard to buy the chaos that erupts out of the disappearance of a puppet, no one can question the genuine love of Happy Herb for his marionette. It’s a shame the rest of the acting couldn’t follow Winkler’s footsteps. William Baldwin barely holds up as Elliott’s father, and some of the townspeople’s dialogue doesn’t hold up to par.
Plumm Summer is director and writer Caroline Zelder’s first attempt at a movie; and it shows. With a mystery villain who’s not so mysterious, and with an ending that leaves viewers wondering what happens to the villains, the script doesn’t entertain to its full potential. The movie does stay true to the old-fashioned feeling of the 60’s era in which it takes place, however, and it does keep the viewer’s attention. The FBI agents, in particular, provide quite a few laughs, including a short at the end of the credits.

The DVD includes a good amount of features for such a low-budget film that took more than a year to come out on video. A commentary features writer/director Caroline Zelder and writer/producer Fank Antonelli, a gag reel provides a few chuckles (but nothing that will have viewers laughing out loud or rolling on the floor), three short deleted scenes (of little significance or entertainment value), and a theatrical trailer. The DVD also includes a music video with shots of action going on behind the scenes – something that those involved in the film might find interesting, but not the average viewer – and a behind-the-scenes feature with interviews of cast and friends on the red carpet of the premier. The last feature might have been more interesting if the filmmakers had made an actual behind the scenes feature and combine the footage from the music video with interviews of the cast.

The special features may not satisfy, but put together with the film, the DVD makes for a great family night. A Plumm Summer will have viewers hopping to its family-friendly tune.

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