“[Summer’s Shadow is] sweet and enjoyable for the kids with enough to it that the parents won’t start to get bored.”




by Martin Hafer

Sometimes when you critique films, it’s nice to see a very simple and undemanding film–one that has no ambitions to win Oscars, be the next art-house film or make a bazillion bucks at the local theater. And, more importantly, it’s nice to see a film you can show anyone without worrying about traumatizing the kids with violence or nudity or just plain nastiness. Summer’s Shadow is just this sort of film–sweet and enjoyable for the kids with enough to it that the parents won’t start to get bored.

The film begins with an old man taking his dog for a little walk. However, the man has what appears to be a heart attack and the dog is left without an owner. This is about as sad as the film gets–and I think little ones can do okay with this very brief and not especially traumatic scene because of the way it was handled.

Summer’s Shadow
Directed by
Steve Franke
Belle Shouse, Todd Terry, Liz Franke
Release Date
Martin’s Grade: A-

Next, you see a divorced father, Jeff Larsen (Todd Terry), being given an unusual job by his boss. It seems that he is to move into a local neighborhood as his company’s liaison to the neighborhood association. I have no idea if they have such things outside the US, but here in Florida where I live, they are very common. Their stated purpose is to ensure that the neighborhood is clean, well maintained and any difficulties are ironed out by the locals. However, and this is important in the case of this film, you do have fascist personalities who try to dominate some of these communities. Heck, I lived in one place where the ‘friendly neighbors’ told me it was time to change my license plates on my car, that my trash cans were too visible from the curb and 1001 other nit-picky problems. It got so bad, that I soon moved to a less annoying place only a mile or so away! So, when you see the character Mrs. Tupperworth, she is actually based on real folks just like her that sometimes dominate these civic organizations. Of course, Mrs. Tupperworth is a very extreme example, but here in my home town, these organizations can be very, very nasty. Because of all this, I loved seeing the film make fun of nasty old Mrs. Tupperworth!

Jeff has a daughter named Summer (Belle Shouse). She is a pretty normal kid–with no superpowers, part-time modeling job or crime-fighting abilities. She’s just a nice little girl–and Shouse did a good job playing her. Summer runs afoul of Mrs. Tupperworth the very day they move in to their home. It seems that Tupperworth doesn’t want Summer outside with her lemonade stand! While there are no rules against it, Tupperworth has spoken!! And, to keep the nasty old lady happy, her father has her move the stand elsewhere. However, this naturally is NOT the end of their problems with Tupperworth.

Into all this controversy are several new friends–a pretty but shy lady named Jessica (Liz Franke), a nice motorcycle dude named Cole (Mark Hanson) and an unpopular but nice little boy, Lanny (Aidan Langford). But another friend, but of the canine variety, is Shadow–the dog you saw at the beginning of the film. This lost soul wanders into Summer’s life…but her father doesn’t want a dog. Why? Because the two of them are always on the move with his job–and naturally this is taking its toll on Summer. So what’s to become of all these folks? See the film, as I don’t want to say more and spoil it for you.

Helming this film is director Steve Franke–who already directed several dog films starring Bailey. I have no idea if these are any good but judging by his handling of this film, I would be interested in eventually viewing them. I wonder if Franke ever thought most of his work would be with dogs?! And, are they easier to deal with than the actors?! But I digress….

The bottom line is that the film was made on a small budget and has direct-to-video written all over it, but it sure was a nice film. Will it change your life? Nah…but it won’t insult your intelligence, talk down to your kids or make you wish you were somewhere else when your kids are watching it with you! And, that’s something that can’t be said about many so-called ‘family films.’