spike_lee_web.jpgWhen asked how Spike Lee, the filmmaker of Red Hook Summer, is different from the Spike Lee who made Do the Right Thing, Lee described himself as “wiser, older.”

During an interview with the South Florida Times to promote the Blu-ray and DVD release of Red Hook Summer, Lee said that when he made Do the Right Thing in 1989, he “wasn’t a father, wasn’t a husband, wasn’t a professor at NYU, wasn’t an artistic director at NYU, a whole bunch of stuff.”

It’s a shame that this “wiser, older” Lee was not reflected in Red Hook Summer, a film that felt empty, rushed and far less thought-provoking than ‘Do the Right Thing,’ which deservedly is included on the American Film Institute’s 100 Best Movies of All Time list.

The comparisons between the two movies are elicited from Lee himself, as both have Brooklyn as home base. Mookie, the pivotal, pizza-delivering character from Do the Right Thing, (played by Lee) also makes an appearance in Red Hook, still delivering the Italian fare. That’s where the similarities end, however.   

Red Hook Summer stars Clarke Peters (Endgame, Notting Hill), Nate Parker (The Great Debaters, Arbitrage), Thomas Jefferson Byrd (Ray, He Got Game) and introduces both Jules Brown and Toni Lysaith.

Self-financed and shot in three weeks, Red Hook straddled the line between making a statement about the role of religion in the inner city and offering a coming-of-age story about Flik Royale (Brown), a young man spending the summer with a grandfather he was meeting for the first time.

Despite mostly poor reviews from critics, Lee said that audiences “seem to like it.”Because the film had a very limited release, Lee said he’s happy “that more people will see it” via DVD, which will include a director’s commentary with  Lee, a behind-the-scenes featurette and a music video.

In Red Hook, Flik is a young black adolescent from Atlanta’s middle class who is plopped into a New York housing project to spend the summer with his ultra-religious grandfather, Bishop Enoch Rouse (Peters), sent there by his mother for reasons Lee never reveals.

Although loaded with potential, the movie never really gains traction, suffering from a poorly written script, bad acting and zero chemistry between Flik and newcomer, Toni Lysaith, the teen’s summer love interest.

Opening on four screens and gradually expanding to its max of 41, the film grossed only $338,803. Hopefully, Lee’s wisdom and maturity will show up in his latest project, Old Boy, Lee’s Americanized take on Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook’s cult classic about a father kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years.

“I just finished with the film … with Josh Brolin,” Lee said. A release date has not been determined. Lee’s creativity is said to be in full effect for Bad 25, his documentary on Michael Jackson and his Grammy award winning Bad CD, which received great reviews. Debuted at the Venice International Film Festival, the documentary is said to capture little known tidbits about the “King of Pop” and his approach to making the multiple platinum follow-up to his smash CD, Thriller. 

Lee promises that the DVD will include more footage than the version that aired on ABC on Thanksgiving. Bad 25, which celebrates the 25th anniversary of the album’s release, will be released in February 2013.

Renee Michelle Hollinger may be contacted at rmhollinger@live.com