SUNDANCE 2012

Sundance 2012: 'Red Hook Summer' Does Not 'Do the Right Thing'

by
January 22, 2012

Red Hook Summer

Following the premiere of Red Hook Summer, director Spike Lee quite adamantly proclaimed that his first Sundance film is "not a motherf**kin' sequel to Do the Right Thing." Yes, the filmmaker intermittently reprises his role as Mookie, the character from the aforementioned 1989 film. Yes, it has the same colorful palette and visual style in hot Brooklyn. Yes, the story structure is eerily similar and culminates in surprising third act chaos driven this time by religious controversy and wrongs as opposed to racial tension. But despite all those things, Red Hook Summer is somehow not a sequel to Do the Right Thing? No way.

If this isn't a sequel to Do the Right Thing, then the only decent qualities Red Hook Summer has are blatant digs at filmmaker Tyler Perry (the two directors have had unkind words with each other), making the film about as subtle as a brick to the face. A tacky movie poster seen outside a convenience store in Red Hook clearly takes swipes at Tyler Perry's Madea character while the entire film itself uses religion (Perry's backbone for family togetherness and cheesy melodrama and redemption) as a point of contention that is just as loud as Father Enoch, one of the main characters played bombastically by Clarke Peters.

I'm sorry Spike Lee, but there's no denying that this is a sequel, or a slightly modified copy of Do the Right Thing. Instead of mouthy, contrived (though still poignant and well-written) conversations about racial equality at Sal's Pizzeria, you get Peters as Father Enoch preaching loudly, at great length, to his adolescent grandson Flik (Jules Brown), who is mouthy, uninterested in his grandfather and God, but for some reason just can't stop recording his conversations, and the rest of the community of Red Hook with his iPad (giving a reason for citizens to talk into the camera, just like Do the Right Thing). Instead of Rosie Perez yelling at Mookie, you get Tony Lysaith at Chazz running her mouth, but at least being cute and charming while doing so. Sadly, most of the performances feel very amateurish, but not with the same auteur charm that Spike Lee's early work contained.

But no matter how brash all of these characters are, it's the film's soundtrack that's even more invasive, almost as if Lee left his iTunes playing on shuffle while editing the film. The music occasionally, almost out of luck, sets the right mood, but most of the time just makes for awkward dialogue scenes and a composition clash of sound and visuals. A blend of R&B and gospel music does not the perfect soundtrack make, especially when it's piled on top of all this bloated dialogue that would make Kevin Smith blush.

A filmmaker returning to his roots like this should be celebrated and exciting, especially at a venue like Sundnace, but in the case of Red Hook Summer, it's merely a forced attempt at nostalgia, no matter how passionate the endeavor may be. It's heartening to have Lee be so in love with this story and film to make it himself without a studio, but equally disheartening to see that this labor of love is more spiteful than anything, especially with a director who seems desperate to separate his film from the very career launching movie that helped define a generation and a moment in time. Better luck next time.

Ethan's Sundance Rating: 5 out of 10

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  • Xerxexx
    I lost interest in Spike Lee after that debacle Miracle at St. Anna.
    • Big Boss
      Same here, Xerx. Spike is a fluke, masquerading as a director.
      • Xerxexx
        I liked The 25th Hour though.
        • jah p
          What about Inside Man and Malcolm X?With the latter being a masterpiece!
  • Bobo_Vision
    The reviewer seems to be comparing this too much with Do the Right Thing and is disappointed as a consequence, but most of Spike's films are heavy on conversation and music. Did the reviewer like (or see) Get on the Bus? That will give me an idea of how much salt I should take with this review.
    • http://www.firstshowing.net/ Ethan Anderton
      Yes. I've seen many of Spike Lee's films and know his style well, but the similarities between this and Do the Right Thing are too many to ignore, hence the comparison. It's not a matter of just being heavy on conversation and music. It's the way it's shot, the way the message is presented and the fact that Spike Lee plays Mookie in it all over again.
  • http://twitter.com/RobTizzle88 Robert Tate
    Excellent point Bobo, I was thinking the same thing while reading this.
  • ........................
    Spike Lee was a great director and has a couple classics under his belt, but he's lost the youthful rebellion and he's now uninspired. But many great directors have their season and eventually lose that spark.
  • Connor
    I was there at the premiere, can't really agree with you more. While I love Clarke Peters and think he was the only good thing about RHS, the child acting was horrible enough to make the whole film a waste of time.
  • Dee
    Is this a review or a comparison piece to "DO the Right thing." How about focusing on the movie content and leave the comparisons out next time.
  • Rosie
    Ethan the troll strikes again....smh This site has got to get rid of him. His "opinions" serve as grounds to verbally bash anything without want or reason. I'm with Bobo, there are two films in which I have gone by his reviews and skipped out on and ended up catching them later as really great films that were under appreciated by a simple bridge troll hiding behind a screen. I'll bet when the Avengers comes out later this year he'll be demanding Oscar nods for it. Not completely impressed with Lee's recent work but after Inside Man he can afford one or two flops.
    • http://twitter.com/FunBot1 FunBot
      if a movie flops, it flops. no one should excuse a terrible movie for flopping because the director has done good movies in the past. this is Spike Lee's roots--movies like Do the Right Thing, White Men Can't Jump, and She's Gotta Have It are what he's supposed to be good at.  Judging by the review, yes it may be flawed with a few too many opinions, but I would not say that drawing comparisons between Do the Right Thing and this particular movie is grounds to be bashed. Spike Lee has been adamant on the fact that it's not a sequel--that's fine, but it's definitely the spiritual successor to Do the Right Thing. The whole point of the review was that Red Hook Summer was trying too hard to be like Do the Right Thing and not establishing itself as a standalone entry in Spike Lee's filmography. Bringing up his previous movies and successes does not do this film justice, sorry.
      • Bobo_Vision
        Previous films of Spike Lee are relevant in this instance since the reviewer says this film is a rehash/sequel to Do the Right Thing, but based on the description, several of his films fall in this vein.  Crooklyn was the story of a young girl growing up in Brooklyn, and the music played a big part in that film.  The soundtrack by Prince played an enormous part of the film Girl 6.  Then you have Get on the Bus which is largely comprised of a series of conversations which take place on a bus and surrounding areas, with music, even gospel music, coming into play. So just because Mookie is in this film, it doesn't make it like a sequel to Do the Right Thing, because the reviewer described little else that tie it to that film, but described several qualities that speak to Spike's entire filmography at large.  By the way, White Men Can't Jump was not a Spike Lee film.
        • http://twitter.com/FunBot1 FunBot
          ah, I apologize. You're right, White Men Can't Jump wasn't a Spike Lee film-- in any case, I still stand by my point. I agreed that to call this a sequel of Do the Right Thing is incorrect, but I still feel that it is derivative of that particular film; hence my mentioning 'spiritual successor'.
    • VI0LAT0R
      You shouldn't be upset at Ethan for missing movies based on a review...blame yourself for being a complete idiot by following some posted message about movies and not your own ideals... Your diatribes are pointless, redundant, and embarrassingly retarded. If movies reviews aren't your cup of tea...there is always the ever popular Japanese Suicide Clubs...
  • Memphis_Guy
    Ok so out of 10 what is your rating then? I lost interest in Spike Lee after Miracle at St. Anna.
  • happy camper
    Spike is more famous for being a sports fan than a director.
  • Xerxexx
    Some here forget that Firstshowing is an opinion site.
  • Rosie
    Not when people who constantly have their nose up Ethan and Co.'s asses (like you Xerxexx) keep reminding us when we criticize these shitty reviews. You guys play that "opinion site" card whenever you feel the need to defend jerks like Ethan. He's a big boy, I'm sure he can handle addressing what a girl thinks of his approach to reviewing movies. I noticed you're always the first one to post on every post which is understandable since you obviously have no life. I'm sure the film isn't the next big thin but I have a hard time agreeing with this review. I'll judge for myself soon.
    • Rosie
      Thing*
    • http://twitter.com/FunBot1 FunBot
      at the end of the day, it IS an opinion site though. I don't see why you're getting so indignant. no one is defending him, I agree his review is flawed, it's just such an unnecessary reason to rage.
  • http://twitter.com/QuanahTweets Quanah
    I read about Spike's meltdown at the festival. Been a while since he's had a freak out, but then again you can't account for tone when reading.
  • Conrad Williams
    I thought Inside Man was pretty good
  • jah p
    I'd still like to see this, even though this is not the first review to have said the same things about this film. This will hold us over until OldBoy finally gets made...
  • Oktopus
    So, you cats believe everything you see and read on the Internet without checking it out for yourself to make your own assessment? (sigh) 

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