Errol, Gerry, and Bryan are trying to enjoy their last summer before middle school. Being twelve is rough – too big to be little boys, and too little to be men, they’re all horribly frustrated with their plight. Not only that, but their summer has been a total bust. They haven’t met any girls, they haven’t had any of the “rights of passage” that come with being almost-teenagers. They’ve just been hanging out. They decide to change this up as soon as possible and considering it’s the last day of summer vacation, they better do it fast.
The boys head out on an immediate whirlwind tour of all things “cool”. They watch porn, they talk to those girls they’ve been avoiding, they make plans to go to a party, they even make a weed deal (or so they think). What they didn’t expect in their hunt for “cool” was that they’d end up getting picked up by someone they suspect is a wanted serial killer known only as “The Ghost”. Tomas, their mystery ride, takes their quest for “cool” very seriously and takes them on a night of wild experiences they’ll never forget… that is, if they survive.
COOL SUMMER is written, directed, animated, and edited by Evan Jacobs, who also voices the character of Errol. He also animated the film using a Mac computer from 2010. There’s a childlike charm to the animation style – similar to something some of us of a certain age would have made in Microsoft Paint – that fits perfectly with the age range of our characters. It may not be as polished as any other animated film, but the simplicity is admirable and suits the simplicity of the story.
COOL SUMMER straddles the line of male chauvinist fantasy and childhood dream – the idea of a bunch of middle school boys sitting around watching porn is one that most of us could identify with (at least, when I talk to my male friends, that’s how it seems). The idea of middle schoolers trying to pick up a hooker? Maybe not so much. Having all of the characters voiced by adults may have a South Park style ring to it, but it also removes the viewer from the harsh reality that these “kids” are supposed to only be twelve years old. I found myself just a little uncomfortable as the movie progressed and these “kids” got deeper and deeper in trouble, and after the film finished I took a few moments to reflect. Does animating a child, and having them voiced by an adult so that no actual children are involved, make it any less disturbing to see children in adult situations? Do we lose accountability when we present stories about children this way? Where is the line drawn about “children in adult situations”… which the MPAA considers a reason to up the rating of a film to something more serious?
I can definitely say that COOL SUMMER is one of the strangest films I have experienced in quite some time. It has a distinctly VHS/straight to video vibe, which is both nostalgic and joyful, and adds to the weird factor. COOL SUMMER is so unique it’s almost too unique, and I’m certain it will struggle to find its stride in the film market, but I hope that people can see past that to see the admirable individuality within.