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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Indian Summer' Earns a Merit Badge for Sappiness

April 23, 1993|PETER RAINER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

What would it be like to go back with your bunkmates from 20 years ago to the summer camp of your youth? If "Indian Summer" (citywide) is any indication, the results would be a lot like a sappy thirtysomething comedy-drama replete with scenes of campfire readings and sheet-shorting.

Writer-director Mike Binder actually went back to his childhood camp deep inside the woods of Ontario's Algonquin Provincial Park to film. It's the same camp that, the press notes say, Chevy Chase and Gilda Radner attended, which probably merits a footnote somewhere. (Maybe it was something in the drinking water.)

Binder obviously has deep feelings for the auld lang syne of summer camp, but his reverence tends to take the form of postcard-pretty vistas of Camp Tamakwa in full autumn foliage. His ensemble of ex-campers and mates--including Vincent Spano, Julie Warner, Bill Paxton, Elizabeth Perkins, Kevin Pollak, Matt Craven, Kimberly Williams and Diane Lane--blend jarringly into the surroundings with their various shticks and tics. They're an overqualified bunch for the shenanigans they're called upon to perform--over and over again. (Perkins, for example, falls out of bed for reveille twice--two times too many.) As the camp director, Alan Arkin shuffles about like he was ready to move into Wilford Brimley's slippers; he turns himself into an old poop.

One big reason this film's auld lang syne seems a bit out of key is because the ex-campers don't seem old enough to be mooning about the missed possibilities in life. Thirtysomethings certainly have these longings but surely the joke ought to be that such lives are still green. A little irony in "Indian Summer" (rated PG-13 for some drug content, sensuality and language) would have gone a long way; it seems to have been written for superannuated fortysomethings. And the big emotional moments don't resolve anything -- except, of course, the need to resolve the plot. The dumbest "relationship" moment comes when Matthew (Spano), whose been on the outs with his wife Kelly (Warner), finds himself being punched out by her in the camp's boxing ring. Strindberg it's not.

On the plus side, this is probably the only film ever made that credits a "Moose Unit." There are some great shoots of moose.

'Indian Summer'

Alan Arkin: Unca Lou

Matt Craven: Jamie Ross

Kimberly Williams: Gwen Daugherty

Sam Raimi: Stick Coder

A Touchstone presentation of an Outlaw presentation. Director/screenplay Mike Binder. Producers Jeffrey Silver, Robert Newmyer. Cinematographer Tom Sigel. Editor Adam Weiss. Costumes Jane Robinson. Music Miles Goodman. Production design Craig Stearns. Art director Rocco Matteo. Set designer Diane Bald. Set decorator Jane Manchee. Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes.

MPAA-rated PG-13 (some drug content, sensuality, language).

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