xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
Gene Siskel proposed an acid test for a movie: Is this film as good as a documentary of the same people having lunch? At last, with "Stolen Summer," we get a chance to decide for ourselves. The making of the film has been documented in the HBO series "Project Greenlight," where we saw the actors and filmmakers having lunch, contract disputes, story conferences, personal vendettas, location emergencies and even glimpses of hope.
Movies are collisions between egos and compromises. With some there are no survivors. "Stolen Summer" is a delightful surprise because despite all the backstage drama, this is a movie that tells stories that work--is charming, is moving, is funny and looks professional. That last point is crucial, because as everyone knows, director Pete Jones and his screenplay were chosen in a contest sponsored by Miramax and actors Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Miramax gave them a break with their screenplay "Good Will Hunting," and they wanted to return the favor.
"Stolen Summer" takes place on the North Side of Chicago in the summer of 1976, when an earnest second-grader named Pete O'Malley (Adi Stein) listens in Catholic school and believes every word about working his way into heaven. Seeking advice from a slightly older brother about how to guarantee his passage to paradise, Pete is startled to learn that the Jews are not seeking to be saved through Jesus. So Pete sets up a free lemonade stand in front of the local synagogue, hoping to convert some Jews and pay for his passage.
There is already a link between Pete's family and that of Rabbi Jacobson (Kevin Pollak). Pete's dad, Joe (Aidan Quinn), is a fireman who dashed into a burning home and rescued the Jacobson's young son Danny (Mike Weinberg), who is about Pete's age. Pete has already met the rabbi and now becomes best friends with his son, although Danny is not much interested in the theology involved, he joins Pete's "quest" to get them both into the Roman Catholic version of heaven. Is Pete's obsession with church rules and heaven plausible for a second-grader? Having been there, done that, I can state that this was not an unknown stage for Catholic school kids to go through, and that I personally knelt in prayer on behalf of my Protestant playmates, which they found enormously entertaining.