Viewers in search of rookie gaffes will be disappointed by Stolen Summer, the even-keeled outcome of Miramax's experiment in cinematic wish granting, which formed the basis of the HBO reality show Project Greenlight. Unfortunately, most others will be disappointed by it, too. Neophyte director Pete Jones can finally take the chip off his shoulder; his contest-winning script and hours of high-profile humiliation have actually culminated in a watchable film. But Jones' tidy efficiency is both a strength and a drawback. On the one hand, it proves him able, but on the other, it gives the world a pretty dull and diluted tale of religious soul-searching in the suburbs. Though it's impossible to judge their performances in a vacuum, understanding that they fell somewhere between volunteers and guinea pigs, the guest actors (Aidan Quinn, Kevin Pollack, Bonnie Hunt) seem imperceptibly bored and embarrassed by their involvement. The subject matter itself is hardly vanilla; in fact, the idea of a young Catholic on a mission to convert Jews might be downright inflammatory. But in the carefully modulated hands of producers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, Jones' story is decidedly toothless. Instead of brazenly challenging norms, they settle for a slice-of-life indie feature with the humdrum rhythms of an after-school special. One almost wishes Stolen Summer had ended up outrageously flawed -- then at least it might have found life as a cult curiosity, instead of an irrelevant and largely unseen footnote.
by Derek Armstrong review