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Cooper and the Castle Hills Gang (2011)

Cooper and the Castle Hills Gang (2011)This is America! We have all seen at least a few movies that portray the American dream — a small town (or neighborhood) where everyone knows you and most everyone likes you, green fields, neat houses.  In other words,  an idyllic place to grow up, raise a family and, yes, shoot a family movie, which (besides entertaining) can be used as a marketing tool – to sell you the American dream.

Cooper and the Castle Hills Gang is a fun film – think Diary of the Wimpy Kid (referenced to by doodles) meets Dennis the Menace, add a few familiar cliché scenes (of the “boy hugs the girl while watching the 4th of July fireworks” type), an adorable young cast and an adventurous plot (yes, its corny, but fun never- the-less) and ta-da! You’ve got yourself a  crowd–pleaser (or some may say: a time – waster).

The main protagonist of the film is eleven-year-old Cooper Callaghan (Kyle Kirk) whose life is all about one thing: “serious, awesome fun”.   He is an adorable little kid who everyone likes – and for a reason.  Who would not like a polite little kid with a golden heart who is always ready to help?  One day, he and his friends (the Castle Hills Gang) embark on a mission – recovering a lost wedding ring for an old gentlemen heartbroken from its loss. This pretty much summarizes the plot. Disappointed? Don’t be.  You are likely to enjoy this flick.  It’s short enough (50 minutes) to keep you entertained and  avoids boredom( 20 more minutes could have been fatal).

Kyle Kirk as Cooper in Cooper and the Castle Hills Gang (2011)

Kyle Kirk as Cooper in Cooper and the Castle Hills Gang

The best word I can think of to describe the camerawork is — “modern”. Crafted focus shots, an abundance of aerial footage, brightly lit and warm-colored scenes, as well as sequences that are almost dreamlike ( Hey!  It’s the American dream, remember?) all combine for great visual appeal.

The young cast does a very credible job (special mention to Aidan Langford who plays Cooper’s little brother Billy). While one can’t expect Stand by Me or The Sandlot quality of acting, this cast deserves an A for effort.  Director Sam Ditore has a talent working with kids and I can only wish to see him directing a Coming-of-Age story with a more credible storyline in the future.

Are you ready for a surprise? Cooper and the Castle Hills Gang was shot on location at the Castle Hills master-planned community and it is actually a marketing tool promoting a real estate property. Selling the American dream – you can’t do it better than that.  Are you bothered by this newly discovered knowledge? You shouldn’t be because this is a film that will make you smile and feel good.  Even I (who often criticizes the American cotton candy films) was not too disappointed by this one. The secret?  I knew what to expect.  You can even watch it online for free at its official web-site .

Cooper and the Castle Hills Gang Official Trailer

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  1. Dear god, what have I just spent 50 minutes watching…

    This is not a film, this is more like a 50 minute extended commecial advertisement for Castle Hills.

    I don’t think I’ve ever expereinced a more false or pretencious pile of garbage than this small film.

    I totally understand that this was indeed a marketing tool for this community, and in that sense, I guess it does what it is meant to do, but wow. It boggled me that they actaully want people to believe this is what their lifestyle is like. What a joke. I laughed at the stupidity of this “film”.

    The only thing I can really take away from it is Kyle Kirk’s pretty good performance. I think he has potential, if put in the right enviroment with a good director and good script.

    I’m baffled…

    • So…it turns out you were right having a ” distateful feeling ” before seeing it – but you can`t say I did not warn you. I will go further insisting that the way the community was portrayed in the film – can only be an idealized fantasy . Yet aside from the actors performance I enjoyed the technical aspects of the film. If you take the story aside and focus just on them its not half as bad – at least not worse than the Diary of the Wimpy Kid , don`t you think ?

    • Indeed you did warn me.

      I guess if you look at it in light of an idealised fantasy, then it puts it a bit more in perspective. But still, I thought it was cringeworthy. Such an utterly unbelievable story as well.

      I didn’t really like the technical side either, it looks like it was shot on a DSLR, and the colour grade was way too punchy for all the wrong reasons.

      Diary of a Whimpy kid is heaps better than this… althought not a great film it is leagues above Castle Hills.

  2. Interesting SkyKid.

    When you said a few familiar cliches. I automatically thought of the scene in the Sandlot, during the 4th of July celebration night match, where Ben hits the ball up into the air, and the gang are mesmerized by the fireworks. Another great example of the American cliche.

    This sounds like an interesting little film. I usually critisise the modern American patriotism in films, and the attempted communication of the ideal “American dream”, but this doesn’t sound too bad. Very short though, 50 mins, just over the consideration for a feature length film.

    The fact that it was used as a marketing tool puts a bit of a distateful feeling towards the film though.

    I’ll have to try and get a copy and check it out.

    Thanks for the review.



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