Summer Magic (1963)

Genres - Children's/Family, Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Family-Oriented Comedy  |   Release Date - Jul 7, 1963 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 109 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - G
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Review by Craig Butler

Ostensibly a remake of Mother Carey's Chickens, Summer Magic has little in common with the earlier film other than the idea of a widowed mother suddenly finding herself in an uncertain financial situation. The Disney version is very typical of the kind of live-action family fare the studio turned out at this time -- pleasant, a little too cute, and somewhat bland. Annoyingly, Magic doesn't take its basic premise seriously; it brings up the family's penury but never explores it realistically, with the result that it becomes hard to really get involved with the story. It doesn't help that the plot is just a series of self-contained incidents that don't build up to a cohesive and satisfying whole. Nor does it help that the film's "period" feel is much more late '50s than 1910s; even the costumes can't seem to agree on what year it is. The score, with the exception of "The Ugly Bug Ball" (which has a distinctly non-period arrangement), is undistinguished. Fortunately, the cast makes the film enjoyable. Hayley Mills is her usual perky self, always engaging but, unlike the movie itself, avoiding the trap of falling into "cutesiness." Burl Ives has some very nice moments and provides a strong but quiet presence throughout, and plays well off of Una Merkel's amusing sternness. Dorothy McGuire is warm and motherly, Deborah Walley is great fun, and in a small part, Michael J. Pollard makes a distinct impression. Mills' next film, The Chalk Garden, would afford her the chance to better stretch her dramatic muscles.