TV Review – SPF-18
The only reason I watched this teen romance is due to the presence of Noah Centineo. Centineo has become a bit of a celebrity over the past two months, thanks to the success of two Netflix movies that were released this summer. This marks the third and it also marks the third that has centered on a female protagonist who sees Centineo’s character as the object of desire, the object of extreme desire, which has probably cemented Centineo as a teen sex symbol. But his character always comes across as a guy’s guy who can be charming to other men. He brings that same down-home magnetism to this, which is arguably a less substantial story.
Centineo’s previous Netflix movies dealt with weightier issues. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before might seem just as fluffy as this, but it stood as a testament to Asian representation, especially since it came in the wake of Crazy Rich Asians. Centineo’s other Netflix movie was Sierra Burgess is a Loser and that one had body-image and self-esteem issues with which to contend. It also was a step forward with representation of plus-size actresses. This movie though has none of that. It’s really not much more than fluff.
Director Alex Israel in his feature debut is basically doing a throwback to films like Gidget (1959) and Beach Party (1963). It’s not surprising given the screenplay is by Michael Berk, one of the creators of Baywatch, but instead of leaning into those 50’s and 60’s surfer flicks, this movie also tries to ride the wave of John Hughes-type teen romances also getting throwbacks this year. This movie clunkily tries to combine both types of film but is so slight in both.
Carson Meyer stars as Penny Cooper, the Gidget-like protagonist here who is the daughter of a famous actress. She’s also like a Kardashian in that she wants to be a reality or social media star, so she records everything with a mini-digital camera and posts the videos online. She’s around 18 and is about to go to college. It’s possibly her last summer in high school or as a high schooler. She has a boyfriend and this summer is the summer where she decides to lose her virginity to him.
Noah Centineo co-stars as Johnny Sanders, Penny’s boyfriend who considers going to Northwestern. However, Johnny is the son of a surfing champion who passed away some time ago. He’s deciding whether to do what his mother wants and go to Northwestern or follow in his father’s footsteps on a surfboard. To that end, he house-sits the Malibu home of Keanu Reeves.
As mentioned, Centineo was the draw for me and will probably be the draw for many others. Meyer is herself a refreshing find, as not just another ditzy blonde. However, the other two teenage actors in this film are the ones who steal the show. Centineo was on a TV series called The Fosters. In that series, Centineo acted opposite Maia Mitchell who also did a surfing film called Teen Beach Movie (2013), but briefly on that series, Centineo worked with Bianca Santos.
Santos also co-stars as Camilla, the best friend to Penny. She’s bisexual and a total free spirit. Jackson White also co-stars as Ash, a musician who does 80’s music and who has been camping on the beach. Both Camilla and Ash come to stay at Keanu’s house and both overshadow the two principals. Both are ultimately more interesting and Santos and White ultimately give better performances.
It’s not Meyer or Centineo’s fault. They’re not given much in the script unless a lot was edited out of the finished movie. There’s some footage of Centineo doing actual surfing unless it’s a really good body-double. His surfing is itself overshadowed by Sean Russel Herman (pictured above) who plays Steve the lifeguard and who does his own surfing, who comes across more like Tab Hunter or Cliff Robertson than anyone else.
Rated PG-13 for sexual references and drug use.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 15 mins.
Available on Netflix.