"Beware the film that opens with Sean Astin talking directly to the camera."
Remember that old "Brady Bunch" episode where the kids break a beloved vase, glue it back together, and then sweat like lunatics as Carol's favorite ceramic begins to split open right before their eyes? I've found the cinematic equivalent of that ill-fated vase, and it's a forgotten little turkey from 1987 called "White Water Summer".The film offers perhaps the most threadbare plot ever conceived (four boys and a guide go hiking), and somehow manages to ignore the premise completely the longer the movie progresses!
One clear indication that this flop was edited together by people on crack is the pointless and irritating narration offered by Sean Astin. Apparently in an effort to A) add some cohesion to this meandering mess and B) stretch the film's running time to an impressive 80-some minutes, our main character interrupts the camping expedition on several occasions to recap what we JUST SAW and also to offer his "inner monologue" about how much he hates camping.
White Water Summer isn't sure if it wants to be a coming-of-age adventure story or a "pushy mountain guide gone psycho" thriller, and I was impressed with how the movie avoided doing either one successfully. Astin plays the most sensitive (read: nerdly) of the four teenaged campers, and Kevin Bacon is on hand as Vic - a hiking expert more interested in scaring the living shit out of his charges than actually helping them to learn anything. Vic leaves the quartet of whining crybabies on their own more than once, and it seems obvious that the viewer is meant to take his character as a villain. (He leaves the little nerd dangling over a 200-foot drop in order to teach him something.)
Yet as soon as things come to a confrontational head, the boys band together to rescue Vic from a brutally broken leg. (Am I insane, or isn’t this the same guy who was attacking the four geeks?) If the film had any aspirations of telling a logical story, I’d be a little bit more perturbed - but it seems that White Water Summer was a damaged product from the word go. (It never received a theatrical release and Bacon never mentions it on any talk shows.) Most stunning is how abruptly the film ends, but I suppose that’s to be expected when a production simply runs out of money.
One worthwhile aspect of White Water Summer is the gorgeous cinematography by legendary director of photography John Alcott. Alcott was one of Stanley Kubrick's favorite cinematographers, and his superlative work on films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, and The Shining is nothing short of brilliant. White Water Summer would be Alcott's final film, and his camera lends an air of quality filmmaking that's lacking in nearly every other aspect of the film.
Unless you're a hardcore fan of all things Kevin Bacon-flavored, or if Lord of the Rings has re-ignited your desire to search out all of Sean Astin's movies - this is a choppy and limp outdoor adventure that you really don’t need to see.Aside from a few suspenseful moments (moments which are repeatedly undone by the script’s ridiculous logic and character motivations), "White Water Summer" is nothing more than a handsomely photographed home movie of Bacon and Astin glaring at each other in a forest.