25 December 2015 | rooprect
The Stream... Luke Warmwater
I'm probably going to hell for posting a not-so-favorable review for this well intended film, but oh well, sometimes the Dark Side prevails. "The Stream" is an energetic production that makes use of upcoming talent from teens of the Boys & Girls Club of America. Acting performances were good and cinematography was surprisingly robust; however I came away feeling as flat as Obi Wan Kenobe's robe on the hangar deck of the Death Star.
I remember when I was a teenager in my first rock band; we got a scathing (but pretty accurate) review in our local paper, and that criticism propelled me to actually learn how to play my instrument. I never got any good at it, but at least I got better. So with that experience in mind, here's my critical review of "The Stream".
If you've seen "The Wonder Years", which is itself an 80s retrospective back to the 60s & 70s, then you can't help but feel like "The Stream" is a total rehash of that formula, set 20 years later. A narrator, now in his 40s, talks us through his childhood memories from when he was 11 years old in 1981. Our hero "Ernest" is mostly a nerd, with an even nerdier best friend "Chris", a pseudo love interest "Paxton" whom he's too afraid to do anything about, a pair of nice but mostly nonexistent parents with a home in suburbia, a neighborhood bully "Wyatt" on his tail, and a brooding attitude exactly like Kevin in "The Wonder Years". It's a good formula, but in this case the story didn't offer much beyond what you might expect.
True, the story has a novel approach of loosely following Ernest's obsession with Star Wars, but it's a very superficial association with only vague references to certain Star Wars characters. I felt like that was a missed opportunity.
I interrupt this sagging review to mention something that was excellent: the soundtrack. Memorable yet not overplayed songs from 1981 were peppered throughout the film, songs like Billy Squier "My Kind of Lover", The Go-Gos "Our Lips Are Sealed", The Who "Let My Love Open the Door", America "You Can Do Magic", and charming use of Joan Jett "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" in the tunnel scene. In 1981 I was exactly the age of the main character, and those songs really took me right back.
And while I'm praising the film I have to add that the visual presentation and scenery (mostly in the woods in Bucks County, PA... not far from where I grew up) was beautifully done with lovely, saturated greens and polished camera work, accentuating the nostalgic vibe. I read somewhere that much of the crew was made up of teens, and if that's true then they outshined what many adults in the business have accomplished.
But... back to the Dark Side... I feel like the screenplay felt a bit contrived, with predictable plot elements and corny gags, and with a preposterous climax (the showdown between the kid and the neighborhood bully). In the end I felt a bit cheated. I should also add that Rainn Wilson's participation, though I've frequently seen him top billed, was limited to a 10 second appearance and a somewhat unimpressive narration.
One thing is for sure, though, everyone involved in this production has a promising future in film, if given a more substantial screenplay to work with. I was particularly impressed with the kid playing the younger brother "Bobby" (a tag along but with a lot of spunk) as well as the comedic presence of the best friend "Chris" who added a lot of color, and I'm not just talking about his proclivity to barf whenever he gets nervous. Come to think of it, all the actors did a great job and had a very natural rapport with each other. If any of you guys involved in filming happen to read this review, I hope it propels you to perfect your craft and come out twice as strong next time. As a footnote, I should probably mention that I never did make it as a rock star. But thanks to that scathing review of my first show, I made dang sure that my second performance was... louder.