Directed by: Spike Lee
Written by: Spike Lee and James McBride
Cast: Clarke Peters, Jules Brown, Toni Lysaith, Nate Parker, James Ransone
It’s almost impossible to believe that the filmmaker of such fresh, provocative, and wildly creative movies as Do the Right Thing, Get on the Bus, Jungle Fever, and Malcolm X is also responsible for the painful ramble that is Red Hook Summer.
That said, if you have to choose between attending a sermon or a film, you’re in luck. Spike Lee gives you both. Here, we might as well be sitting in a pew among the twenty or so church-going characters as we suffer through four abysmal scenes in which firebrand preacher Bishop Enoch (an overdone Clarke Peters) carries on from the pulpit, singing, clapping his hands, reading from the Bible and praising Jesus. Oh, it’s church all right. But we have to keep checking to confirm that we’re sitting in a theater as well, since the images bouncing off the screen only minimally resemble a feature film.
The loose story concerns a spoiled, fish-out-of-water teen named Flik (non-actor Jules Brown) who is spending the summer with his preacher grandfather in the projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. Flik misses his Atlanta home, his mother (away on a trip), and his friends. Other than finding some sort of companionship with the asthmatic neighbor girl Chazz (another non-actor, Toni Lysaith), Flik is a picture of misery. His grandfather throws religion in his face 24/7 – when the kid isn’t sitting in church, he’s put to work doing menial chores, or listening to the get-thee-away-from-me-Satan ravings from both his grandpa and the drunk Deacon Z (Thomas Jefferson Byrd). Lee casts himself in the movie as well, revisiting his Mookie character from 1989′s Do the Right Thing. Not only does he hearken back to Mookie, but he reuses that film’s title in three separate instances, with one character admonishing another. Come on, Mr. Lee … it’s time to move on up from 1989.
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