MOVIE REVIEWS : 'Aloha Summer': Youth in Troubled Paradise

Times Staff Writer

"Aloha Summer" (at the AMC Century 14 and other theaters) has everything its title suggests: teen romance, Waikiki surf 'n' sand and a pop sound track.

Yet it has so much more--a judicious blend of melodrama, humor and sentimentality--that it surprises you with its depth and perception.

Few glossy, big-budget films are graced with as intelligent and comprehensive a script as this. Writers Mike Greco and Bob Benedetto, working from Greco's semi-autobiographical story, have created realistic characters for director Tommy Lee Wallace and his cast to bring to life with conviction and economy. Not only does "Aloha Summer" have the bright look of old picture post cards but also the "heart" of multicharacter '50s films. It's set in Waikiki in 1959, the year Hawaii became a state, a transitional period that serves as a metaphor for the coming-of-age that its young people experience over a long summer. It centers on six youths: Mike (Chris Makepeace), a nice middle-class guy from San Jose; Chuck (Don Michael Paul), a handsome, rich young man from Los Angeles; Kenzo (Yuji Okumoto), a very traditional Japanese from Kyoto; his Hawaiian Japanese-American cousin Scott (Scott Nakagawa), and two Hawaiian beach boys, Jerry (Blaine Kia) and Kilarney (Warren Fabro).

"Aloha Summer" painstakingly re-creates its period and manages to cover considerable emotional terrain, starting with the prejudices that to this day blemish Hawaii's image as a multiracial paradise.

There are problems not only with interracial romance, but clashes between socioeconomic levels. Much of the film concentrates upon Kenzo's attempt to grow independent from his rigid, old-fashioned father (Sho Kosugi), a martial-arts master who hates Americans for having defeated Japan in World War II and can't understand how Scott's father Ted (Robert Ito) could have served in the U.S. Army. The point of this fine, unassuming film (rated PG for mature themes) is that left to themselves, kids can stay free of the prejudices that cripple their parents.

'One Fine Night'

Accompanying "Aloha Summer" at the AMC Century 14 is young film maker Craig Storper's prize-winning 28-minute "One Fine Night," an exceptionally well-wrought vignette set in an empty mansion invaded by three couples just before their high school graduation.

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