The concept of Summer Wars is an odd one. On the one hand, it is the story of a girl and her quirky family. On the other, the story of a boy wrapped up in a sort-of internet conspiracy. How well do these two mesh?
Kenji Koiso is our protagonist, and is recruited by his older classmate Natsuki Shinohara, to pose as her fiance during her a family get-together. What follows is not in fact a romantic comedy full of misunderstandings, but a look at a japanese family and the events that will bind them together.
And these are the best parts of the movie - being introduced to the family and seeing how they act. Granted, they don't light the movie on fire, and come across as rather cliche, but they do provide some charming moments and fun banter to keep the movie going at a nice clip. For a while, anyways.
The same can't be said for our main character. Kenji is a flat character from beginning to end, and even could be axed from the movie with little consequence. His defining trait is being good at math, but math in this movie amounts to scribbling on paper without going into detail. If this doesn't seem like a big deal, then I'll get into the part where he and Natsuki are relevant, and the other problem of this movie - OZ.
You see, this colorful take on the internet is being terrorized by an advanced hacking AI, and in a world where everything is connected to it, this can only spell trouble. Summer Wars has been described as having great animation and art direction, and OZ is where this truly shines, and could have easily been my favorite part.
The problem? These moments take up less than 25% percent of the film, and are presented in such a disjointed manner than completely distracts from what was going before. The final conflict comes across as way too convenient, but everybody wrap themselves around it because its the only way Kenji and Natsuki can be important. It suceeds in destroying whatever focus the movie had.
I know could just focus on the parts I like, but these moments ultimately aren't developed enough. I could turn off my brain and go for the ride through OZ, but it ends up coming across as a big distraction in the end because it doesn't mesh with the rest of the movie.
All in all, Summer Wars was just a boring messy 60 min to sit through.