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White Water Summer

Kevin Bacon and rivers just don't mix. Something about the rapids seems to tap into the actor's dark side, unleashing the evil outdoorsman hiding behind those icy blue eyes. Exhibit A in proving this theory is, of course, 1994's The River Wild; Bacon was practically Deliverance-like as Wade, one of the baddies going after a sporty Meryl Streep and her family. But lest you write that off as a one-time deal, consider 1987's White Water Summer, a jumpy, poorly developed coming-of-age story in which Bacon plays Vic, a mercurial mountain man who takes four boys on a six-week Sierra adventure that includes (you guessed it), a stint on the river. Vic is no Wade (which is one of the movie's main problems — he's not all that overtly villainous a villain), but he is awfully fanatical about forcing his quartet of teens to toughen up and learn self-reliance. He's particularly hard on reluctant camper Alan (Sean Astin), a city boy who'd rather tune into the ballgame than gut a fish. The movie very obviously sympathizes with Alan, painting Vic as a slave-driving trail guide who never lets his charges rest — or do things the easy way. And, sure, Vic is a menacing fellow, but watching White Water Summer in a post-Cast Away, post-Survivor world, it's hard not to think Alan and the other kids are, frankly, kind of whiny. Not that the viewer ever gets to know any of them besides Alan particularly well; George (K.C. Martel), Chris (Matt Adler), and Mitch (Jonathan Ward) aren't even developed enough to become typical teen-movie stereotypes. Astin is decent as Alan, but it's pretty obvious that he hit a growth spurt while the movie was filmed — in some scenes he's Goonies cute, in others (including the film's framing flashbacks, with seem to have been tacked on at least a year or two after principal photography finished up), he looks more like the hobbit he plays in Fellowship of the Ring. Not his fault, of course, but it's kind of distracting. As is director Jeff Bleckner's abrupt pacing; there's practically no set-up, and later the film jumps from scene to scene with little in the way of transitions. Put simply, Lord of the Files (heck, even White Squall), this ain't. Columbia TriStar's DVD release offers sharp anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and pan-and-scan transfers, with audio in DD 4.0, Dolby 2.0 Surround, and French mono, along with an array of subtitles. The only extras are trailers, one for this film and one for The Karate Kid. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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