If you grew up in the 90s you know about light-hearted vacation comedies. They were all the rage for a while, giving a taste of families or friends being dumb as they take some time away from their normal lives. The Lake is a series that calls back to these similar times in film, with the story of a dad trying to reconnect with his daughter all the while dealing with family drama in the form of a step-sister who wants to keep him from the family lake house. A fun concept that works well in small doses, but the full eight episodes feel a bit long for the simple, bare-bones story.
Walking into The Lake it felt very similar to those 90-minute comedies from the 90s. With Justin (Jordan Gavaris) taking the summer to connect with his city-loving teenage daughter Billie (Madison Shamoun), he rents a house at the lake his family used to always visit. While they used to have a big house on the lake, he long since lost touch with his family when he went off to Australia to be with his now ex-boyfriend.
Unbeknownst to him, the house had been passed down to his step-sister Maisy-May (Julia Stiles), who has big plans for the property. Finding out about a trust, Justin plays a game of cat and mouse with his sister to try and win the property back and reclaim what he thinks is his.
With the family battle raging on, the many characters that inhabit the lake make for mad-cap antics, including relationships, side plots, and even a horror episode to fill out the runtime. With actors like Terry Chen, Travis Nelson, Natalie Lisinska, and Jon Dore there is plenty of comedy talent on display to make for a fun, light romp that dives into many issues while exploring the meaning of family and the hi jinks people will get up to while away from their normal home.
At its heart, The Lake is very much a comedy meant for you to enjoy and not think too deeply about. While the series does tackle many poignant issues, along with deeper issues of adoption, sexuality and race, it does so on a very surface level to never make anything pull too much away from the comedy and family antics constantly going on in each scene. The comedic chemistry makes even the more complex scenes feel easy to dive into and digest.
Filmed in North Bay, Ontario and being one of the first Prime Video scripted Canadian Amazon Original series, The Lake manages to avoid the ‘cheap’ look many home-grown series have been accused of. The setting feels lived in, giving with the landscape acting as a character for the series. There is life and history behind what is going on screen, and that makes even the simple story have a weight to it that would be absent in a lesser production.
“The Lake feels like a fun thing to throw on during the summer months.”
The acting talent on display is what makes The Lake work so well. Jordan Gavaris and Julia Stiles have a chemistry that makes it interesting to watch then they are on-screen together. It is believable that these two would hate each other and have a family connection. The little fights and jabs feel natural, helping build the world around the rivalry and the family connection they share. The ensemble cast makes even the minor scenes feel fun and alive, with the many characters that inhabit the small lake area feel as bonkers as they are lovable, something missing in many shows like this.
The real issue with The Lake is it simply runs out of steam over the extended length. There are a lot of good moments in the series, and a great sense of fun to the proceedings, but there is simply not enough story to make it feel worthy of eight episodes. If they had made it a bit shorter, or put it in a movie, everything would have flowed much smoother. As it is now, there are many moments that feel forced, dragged out, or simply unnecessary and that hurts the pacing of the comedy and solid family moments that make the series work.
The Lake feels like a fun thing to throw on during the summer months, a madcap romp through family struggles with moments of heartwarming well realized characters. It is just disappointing the series loses momentum and feels worse for it. While it is well worth a watch for anyone that loves a good old-fashioned vacation comedy, it could have been so much better had they reigned it in a bit.