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Movie Review: Dog Days of Summer

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Do you remember the time in your life when it began to occur to you that things, especially the adults around you, were not what they seemed? I used to think that religious leaders never sinned, that my parents were always right, that politicians could be trusted. Yes, there comes a time in every person's life when the true state of their world comes into clearer focus. In the movie Dog Days of Summer this “coming of age” occurs for two boys given free license with an old camera. And it's not a pretty picture.

Best friends Phil (Devon Gearhart) and Jackson (Colin Ford) befriend a transient stranger named Eli Cottonmouth (Will Patton), a maker of miniatures. The town fathers commission Mr. Cottonmouth to build a miniature of their “lovely, little town” in honor of their sesquicentennial (250th anniversary). Knowing that the boys will be able to go places and see things he will not, Eli enlists the boys' aid to take pictures for him of the town: people, places, and things. What the boys see through that lens becomes an accurate picture of what the town is really like, and Mr. Cottonmouth produces a true portrayal of it by the miniature he leaves them to contemplate.

This movie has a great suspense build and the otherworldly music to go with it. With the tragedy of a Shakespeare play and the twisted reality of The Twilight Zone, you come away from this with a lot to think about. Yet, under the gloom lies a thread of redemption without which this movie would be unbearable to watch. With violence, deception, adultery, fornication, and an illegitimate pregnancy, it's no wonder Phil grows up to be a rather cynical man. The grown Phil (Colin Key) returns to his abandoned home town as if led there to sort it all out before the town is demolished. The healing he receives through this visit finally brings closure for all the pain he has harbored into his adulthood as his “coming of age” is finally complete.

If you like The Twilight Zone, you will truly appreciate the mysterious twists and turns this story takes. The acting is superb for an indie film, and the cinematography and music conform well with the story line. Considering it was his first film, I believe Mark Frieburger did a fantastic job directing it. Dog Days of Summer is approved by the Dove Foundation for ages 12 and over, and I would strongly advise parents to preview it before allowing kids under twelve to see it. The violence, especially the beating of an elderly man with ball bats and the graphic drowning of a child, may be too disturbing for younger children.

View the movie trailer at the film's website.

STREET DATE: April 21, 2009

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About Marcia Wilwerding