All too typical of a Spike Lee joint, Red Hook Summer is bound to leave you utterly conflicted, overwhelmed with both admiration and frustration. Though respectable and at times undeniably inspiring, the film typifies the expression "mixed bag." It's a cluster of personal and pertinent ideas—social, political, and religious—emasculated by the vehicle which drives them forward.
The first fifteen minutes provide a window into such ambivalence. Following a car ride into Brooklyn while Judith Hill's delightful "Love Today" plays, a potentially significant moment emerges: Flik (Jules Brown), a spoiled and faux-hawked Atlanta teen, meets his grandfather, Bishop Enoch (Clarke Peters), for the very first time. This moment, a clashing of cultures, symbolizes the spiritual disconnect between the old and the young and, in turn, the need for reconciliation. Unfortunately, Lee undermines the powerful sequence with a trite depiction of Christianity and, well, Christians. Filled with Jesus fishes, crosses, and religious paintings, Enoch's house comes across artificially, and the same goes for Enoch, who greets the boy with an exaggerated "God is great" and goes on to drop more clichés. The scene, while still holding weight, is undercut by overstatement, especially in the unconvincing turns of Brown and Peters.
Written and directed by Lee, the film begins as a coming-of-age story when Flik's mother sends him to spend time with his grandfather in Red Hook, a Brooklyn neighborhood once dubbed "the crack capital of the world." Through his relationship with a charismatic girl named Chazz (Toni Lysaith) and experiences at the local church, Flik starts to find his perspective of the world widened; he learns responsibility, empathy, ...1
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Red Hook Summer
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