Dog Days of Summer

Review Engaging, if ultimately unsatisfying, Dog Days of Summer tells an old story in a way that's not particularly new.

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A drifter arriving in a small town is a well-worn movie scenario. In Dog Days of Summer, the drifter in question is Eli Cottonmouth (Will Patton) and the small town is somewhere unspecified in the southern USA at some indeterminate time in the past. Cottonmouth makes models, and before long he has been hired to make a replica of the town as the centrepiece of its 250th anniversary celebrations. Philip (Devon Gearhart) and his best friend Jackson (Colin Ford) are immediately entranced and Cottonmouth enlists them to take photographs of the town and its inhabitants, to help him with his research. So begins what Philip later refers to as "the summer I unwillingly grew up". This story is intercut with scenes of the adult Philip (Colin Key) revisiting the now-abandoned town, reflecting on the events that unfolded. Despite a nice line in evocative whimsy, this movie is undone in the end by a lack of subtlety. Set up as a parable about lost innocence and the concealment of sin, it's obvious early on who is harbouring which secrets, and any twists in the tale are fairly predictable. The only exception to this is Cottonmouth himself, with Patton managing to keep the question of whether he is simply after the townspeople's money or whether he is on a mission to hold up a mirror to them, open. In the end, despite the efforts made to turn this into something more interesting than an average coming-of-age movie, that is exactly what it becomes. But even with its faults, it's still an engaging, if ultimately rather unsatisfying, film.