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  • Nate Adams

'Snack Shack' review: A decent but undercooked coming-of-age comedy


Courtesy of Paramount

 

Taking a page from the teen movies of the mid-seventies into the eighties, writer-director Adam Rehmeier’s “Snack Shack” deals with adolescence in a sincere though occasionally melodramatic package. It’s got all the coming-of-age hallmarks: underage drinking, pranks, relationship woes, coarse language, and, of course, the unexpected hurdles life can throw at us. These movies rarely ascend to the level of “Dazed & Confused” or the more recent “Lady Bird,” but when they have a decent cast and memorable characters, it can usually overcome a script that loses its momentum late in the game. “Snack Shack” falls right into that wheelhouse.

 

Set in Nebraska during the summer of 1991 (already a unique location), we follow two 14-year-old entrepreneurs A.J. (Conor Sheery) and Moose (Gabriel LaBelle – “The Fabelmans”) as they embark on a three-month odyssey to turn the local pool’s snack shack into a profit empire. It’s a much-needed distraction for A.J. whose strict parents Judge (David Costabile) and Judy (Gillian Vigman) are on the verge of sending him to military school because of all the trouble he gets into with Moose, like trying to sell their own homemade brand of booze or ditching the school field trip to gamble and smoke cigs.

 

As the hot days of the summer drag on, A.J. and Moose encounter their own share of problems: like acquiring enough capital for the shack, trying to court the next door neighbor, Brooke (Mike Abdalla), and dealing with bullies. Their friendship being put to the test when A.J. struggles to articulate his feelings for Brooke, which essentially gives Moose the go-ahead to try and win her over. A battle of egos ensues.

 

There’s also Shane (Nick Robinson) who offers his sage advice to the youngsters, including a planned trip to Alaska the following summer. And all this transpires while A.J. and Moose are making tons of cash from plenty of swimmers and they even come up with innovative ways of charging a few extra bucks, like writing the word fuck in ketchup on hot dogs and calling them “fuck dogs.” 

 

Sheery, LaBelle, and Abdall have a nice chemistry among them, which helps sell certain moments of humor, but it fails to ignite during the final 30-minutes when Rehmeier pours on the emotional baggage in, what seems like, a last-ditch effort to infuse sentimentality into an otherwise raunchy comedy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite stick the landing, though the cast is commendable, and the script has enough relatability to save it from being a complete loss.

 

Grade: B- 

 

SNACK SHACK opens in theaters Friday, March 15th.


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