For a few years now, I have wanted to watch the film, Summer Magic. It’s a title that I had never heard of until I came across it on Pinterest. Even after I recorded the movie on my DVR, I didn’t make the time to watch it. Because of the A Month Without the Code Blogathon, I decided to include Summer Magic in my roster of films! This is the third movie of Hayley Mills’ that I’ve reviewed this year. I liked both The Moon-Spinners and The Trouble with Angels. When I read the movie’s tagline on their DVD cover, I saw the word “mystery” and was excited to see what kind of story would be told. I also discovered that Burl Ives was one of the stars of the film! Prior to watching Summer Magic, I had never seen Burl act. However, I was familiar with who Burl was as a singer, as I’ve heard his versions of various Christmas songs. So, I was curious to see if he was given a significant part in the movie or a cameo role where he got to portray himself. Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s find out in this review!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: When it comes to films starring Hayley Mills, I, as an audience member, have never been disappointed! That’s because she has the acting talents to lead a film! Hayley had such a pleasant on-screen presence in Summer Magic, bringing her character, Nancy, to life with charm and likability. As I said in my introduction, I had never seen Burl Ives act before. His portrayal of Osh Popham was better than I expected it to be! He was so expressive in his acting performance and his singing performance could do no wrong. Deborah Walley is an actress that I am not familiar with. Despite this, I was entertained by her performance! Julia was such an interesting character to watch on screen. Deborah’s ability to pull off a well-rounded performance helped her achieve that goal. The rest of the cast was good as well. Because of the believability they brought to their roles, all of the characters appeared and felt like real-life people!
The music: If you’re going to cast Burl Ives in a film, you have to have him sing at least one song. Burl actually sang two songs in Summer Magic and both performances were really good! His first song “Ugly Bug Ball” not only featured music that reflected the story’s time period, but it also featured music that resembled when the film was released. Burl’s second song, “On the Front Porch”, as well as the rest of the music, felt like it belonged in the world of the early 1900s, when Summer Magic takes place. This helped the movie be immersive and bring this cinematic world to life.
The historical accuracy: Another aspect of Summer Magic that made the movie feel immersive was the historical accuracy of the overall production. For historical fiction stories, this aspect is so important because it provides a sense of authenticity. From the costumes to the architecture, everything seemed like it was brought back directly from that time period. Even things as simple as hairstyles helped the movie’s creative team realize their cinematic idea. Anytime I see a period film that appears and feels historically accurate, it gives me the impression the creative team behind that film not only knows what they’re doing, but that they care about the project they’re making. This is exactly how I felt about Summer Magic.
What I didn’t like about the film:
No “magic” and “mystery”: On the DVD cover for Summer Magic, the film’s tagline says “A Season Of Love, Music, And Mystery”. However, “magic” and “mystery” are nowhere to be found. Since The Moon-Spinners was created by the same studio as Summer Magic and since The Moon-Spinners was released the year after Summer Magic, I assumed the latter would have a mystery that was more light-hearted than the aforementioned title. Sadly, this plot didn’t leave any room for a mystery to be told. Even though this movie is called Summer Magic, there is no “magic” that is usually found in Disney films. When it comes to films from this particular studio, “magic” is not just coming from the things that happen on screen. It’s the way that the film makes an audience feel. For me, Summer Magic did not make me feel this way.
A basic plot: Because of what I just said, I thought there was going to be a mystery featured in this film’s plot. That didn’t happen, which caused the plot to be too basic for my liking. The story was also straight-forward, leaving no room for intrigue. Even when there was a chance for the narrative to have a sense of intrigue, those chances ended before they could begin. A perfect example is when Osh Popham was telling Nancy and her mother about the previous homeowner’s painting, only for his wife, Mariah, to confront him about his lie moments later.
Lack of musical numbers: For movie musicals, there’s, usually, at least one musical number. This scene will feature singing and dancing, but will also be presented as a grand spectacle. Summer Magic never had a scene like this. In fact, anytime a song was incorporated into the film, the characters would, mostly, sing the song while sitting down. Because Disney’s forte is musicals, I was quite surprised by the lack of musical numbers in this film. Since Mary Poppins was released the year after Summer Magic, I’m wondering if the first movie received more attention and financing from the studio, possibly viewing Summer Magic as an afterthought?
My overall impression:
As of August 2019, I have seen four of Hayley’s Mills films in their entirety. For the most part, I have enjoyed these movies. But, if I were to rank them, Summer Magic would be at the bottom of the list. That’s because the film itself was just ok. Since there was no “mystery” or “magic” in the story, the film’s plot wasn’t as intriguing as I hoped it would be. Despite the fact that the movie’s tagline promised that there would be music, it wasn’t a musical in the typical sense. But the film did have its merit, such as the acting and the historical accuracy of the project. It’s a film that I can’t fully recommend, but not completely dissuade people from seeing. Like I said about The Nun’s Story, Summer Magic is one of the “cleaner” films in A Month Without a Code! While there are a few things that would need to change, this film could be “breenable”. These things are:
- There is some language in Summer Magic that would need to be rewritten or removed. This is because some of the words that the characters said were unpleasant. One example is when Nancy is trying to put up wallpaper in the house. When her mother expresses her doubts about whether Nancy is capable of completing the task on her own, Nancy makes a statement like “Any idiot can do it”.
- There were three lines in the song, “Ugly Bug Ball”, that I was very surprised were featured in a Disney film. The lines are highlighted in bold print:
“Then our caterpillar saw a pretty queen
She was beautiful in yellow, black and green
He said, “Would you care to dance?”
Their dancing led to romance.
And she sat upon his caterpillar knees
And he gave his caterpillar queen a squeeze
Soon they’ll honeymoon
Build a big cocoon
Thanks to the ugly bug ball”
Because of how suggestive these lines sound, they would need to be written.
- During the movie, Julia and Nancy develop a crush on Charles Bryant, a recent college graduate who comes to their small town as a school teacher. Julia admits that she completed “finishing school”, so I’m guessing she would be 17 or 18. Meanwhile, Nancy might be somewhere between 14 to 16. Since this is a Disney/family-friendly film, their interactions with him are innocent. But, the fact that two teenage girls would entertain the idea of falling in love with a grown man should not be in a family-friendly movie.
- While Osh Popham is looking for a painting for give to Nancy’s family, he finds a picture of a scantily clad woman. When this painting is presented to the audience, jazz music can be heard in the background. If this film were created during the Breen Code era, this painting would not be shown on-screen. I don’t believe that the jazz music would be heard either.
Overall score: 6.3 out of 10
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