Staten Island Summer

The teen sex comedy was once a major box office draw. During the 80s, movies like Porky’s and Revenge of the Nerds grossed millions despite the fact that most teen sex comedies told the same basic story. The formula was simple: male virgin seeks deflowering, preferably with the help of his hard-partying chums and at the hands of the community’s most desired woman. Armed with this familiar premise, whose roots reached back to English Restoration theater, a writer could forgo the usual story and character development and spend most of his time concocting gags and comic set pieces.

Staten Island Summer, written by SNL head writer and “Weekend Update” cohost Colin Jost, is traditional to a fault. Jost chronicles a Labor Day weekend in the life of Danny (Graham Phillips), an 18-year-old lifeguard at the local swimming pool, who’s about to set off for Harvard University. Before departing, he and his chubby best friend, Frank (Zack Pearlman), vow to get laid and, to that end, throw an end-of-the-season bacchanalia at the pool. As his conquest, Danny selects Krystal Manicucci (Ashley Greene), the so-called Queen of Staten Island and a character so thinly conceived that she barely registers onscreen. The teen sex comedies of the Reagan years are embarrassing now for their sense of male sexual entitlement; in Revenge of the Nerds, a woman is tricked into having sex with someone she believes is her partner, sexual humiliation played for laughs. Staten Island Summer is never that medieval, but in keeping with the old-school formula, Jost makes all the women in Staten Island Summer mere objects of desire.

Ultimately the movie’s archaic sexual politics have more to do with nostalgia than any notion of masculinity. Jost and director Rhys Thomas pay homage to the movies that inspired them but fail to find any sort of contemporary context for those stories. Staten Island Summer is filled with characters cribbed from other movies—Fred Armisen’s squirrelly utility man is modeled on Bill Murray’s groundskeeper from Caddyshack (1980), and Bobby Moynihan’s boozing burnout is based on John Belushi’s Blutarsky from Animal House (1978). Even the dual protagonists are dead ringers for Michael Cera and Jonah Hill in Superbad (2007), maybe the only teen sex comedy to acknowledge that the young male heroes are actually pretty pathetic. The sole aim of Staten Island Summer is to keep the party going, even if it’s one that should have ended years ago.  v