Getting the tone right for a family movie is incredibly difficult. If you make it too child friendly you can alienate the adults. Keeping the kids happy is even more difficult – they want to be entertained but they want enough of an edge so they don’t feel like babies. Kenton Hall, the writer-director (and co-star) of A Dozen Summers manages to hit the mark with this low-budget comedy. Hall gives his film a zesty and vibrant tone which really does make this a must for kids and parents alike. It doesn’t talk down to its young audience or treat any adults watching like idiots.
Somersaulting the usual conventions on their head, A Dozen Summers follows two sisters ( Scarlet and Hero Hall) as they navigate through their daily lives. They’re caught up in their own movie – one which must play by their rules – and suddenly everything becomes unpredictable. The film opens with Colin Baker’s unseen narrator as he’s beginning to narrate a typical children’s film. He’s soon distracted by the less conventional Daisy and Masie and that’s when A Dozen Summers kicks into unpredictable gear.
A film within a film, A Dozen Summers plays fast and loose with its narrative, using cinema as a way of depicting the world through a child’s eyes. Hall litters his film with a wicked sense of humour and he gives it a playful tone that perfectly captures the outlook of pre-teen kids – the last gasp of childhood that sees adulthood looming on the horizon. A modern fairy tale, A Dozen Summers may be for cynics who are tired of children’s films but it is not cynical.
Scarlet and Hero Hall make for two very likeable leads and they hold the attention well as they swing from one zany imagination-fuelled set-piece to the other. This is their first film and they command the screen with the skill of two-pros. The adults also appear to be having a good time – even if they are set as comic foils to our two heroines. Former Doctor Who Colin Baker’s dulcet tones make for a worthy addition as the exasperated narrator who has met his match.
It’s difficult to find a film for a family that isn’t in some way a ruthless cash-grab aimed at emptying wallets and purses through matinees and DVD purchases. However, A Dozen Summers is an independent film that has been made with pure intentions and without any corporate agenda. It’s witty, fun and well-made – and that makes it worth the admission price.