Paxton and Gang Take a Trip Down Memory Lane
20 Years on from spending their summers at Camp Tamakwa learning about nature, a group of adults are invited back by camp owner Uncle Lou (Alan Arkin - Glengarry Glen Ross) for one more time before he closes it down forever. As soon as these old friends return nostalgia takes over as they reminisce about their time at the camp and start playing the sort of pranks on each other that they did many years before. But at the same time each one faces up to their own issues which have been dragging their lives down.
To put it simply "Indian Summer" is pretty much a stereotypical reunion movie and as such covers the familiar territory of old romances, secrets, old scores and of course sorting out those issues which have got in the way of the old friends, think "The Big Chill" and "Peter's Friends" and you will know the sort of thing. It's certainly isn't anything new and is very formulaic with 3 sections where firstly we get a brief introduction to all the old friends whilst hinting at their issues, the second section manages to develop on these issues whilst also delivering the nostalgia of times gone by before wrapping it all up nicely for a final section where the world and their issues are basically put to right.
Add to this formula is to be frank some enjoyable but quite unoriginal humour where teenage pranks such as toothpaste in the bed our played out by the adults as being at Camp Tamakwa makes them act like children again. Plus the humorous recollections of first kisses, getting into trouble and as one of the men put it "I had my first boner here". It's all fun stuff which will have you laughing but it is a little uneven with the humour interjecting now and then to break up the drama rather than trying to be funny all the time.
But the strange thing is that it's not the storyline or the humour that engage you, it's the charm, warmth and nostalgia which will make you see past the formulaic approach and stereotypical storylines. It's that this group of people shared something special back in summer camp and the movie shares it with you, allowing you into their recollections of what was a wonderful time whilst also sharing their current issues with you. It's hard to really explain but it makes you wish you had been at Camp Tamakwa in its heyday and been able to return to see all the names carved in the walls of the log cabins and meet up with your old friend Uncle Lou. It's this feeling which makes "Indian Summer" not just a mediocre attempt at a reunion movie nut something genuinely charming.
With a cast which includes Bill Paxton, Elizabeth Perkins, Matt Craven, Julie Warner, Kimberly Williams as well as Sam Raimi there are a lot of nice performances which have a laid back feel as if no one star is trying to outshine the other. But those which do stand out come from Diane Lane as the lovely, recently widowed Beth, whilst Kevin Pollak is a laugh as the slightly uptight business man Brad. But the real star of the movie is Alan Arkin as Uncle Lou, a performance which whilst not spectacular stands out with all the quirkiness and friendliness you would want from a seasoned summer camp leader welcoming home old friends like they were his own children.
What this all boils down to is that taken on face level "Indian Summer" is nothing more than a reunion movie delivering a formulaic approach and stereotypical storylines of recollections, romances and issues. But if you allow the warmth, charm and nostalgia sweep over you then it's more than just another formulaic reunion movie. It becomes like an old friend regaling you with the good old times, the innocence of childhood that you want to revisit so you can sort out those issues dogging your life with your old friend Uncle Lou.