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How ‘Snack Shack’ Captures Life Before Digital Revolution

Teen comedy explores time when teens didn't obsess over iPhones, Snapchat

Set in Nebraska City in 1991, “Snack Shack” is not a “giant sucking sound” out from the middle of America, as Ross Perot described policy in the early 1990s. It’s just the opposite.

It piques the appetite for what makes us human.

Many Americans in their mid-lives today were teenagers in the 1990s, and teen life drives the character arc of the movie’s main youth characters, AJ (Conor Sherry) and Moose (Gabriel LaBelle). The film reflects on all that has changed in adolescence between then and now.

Filmed in director Adam Rehmeier’s childhood hometown, “Snack Shack” samples the good, the pivotal and the raunchy from a year that turned out to be the terminal days of pre-digital American culture.

Snack Shack Trailer #1 (2024)


“This is his love letter to Nebraska City,” Rehmeier’s mother, Candace, said during a town-hall style meet-and-greet in their hometown tied to the film.

To this point, Nebraska City’s actual Parks and Recreation Director, Scooter Edmunson, plays himself in a speaking role.

Movies of teen friendships and their adventures are facing a trying time.

IMDB and Screen Rant include in the genre “Little Giants,” “The Mighty Ducks” franchise, “Sandlot,” the “Karate Kid” franchise, “We Bought a Zoo,” “Adventures in Babysitting,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and more. They omit any movies about adolescent males who team up to do something after the year 2014.

Have young eyes, forever glued to phone screens, decimated the market for real-world teen adventures?

As the Washington Examiner reports, “These days it’s rare children get an authentic experience.” If we are a decade into considering it too risky to feature young men taking initiative, Rehmeier deserves credit for putting the focus back onto this niche.

Snack Shack - Exclusive Clip (2024) Conor Sherry, Gabriel LaBelle, Mika Abdalla

If history doesn’t repeat itself, but rhymes, then we are at a rhyming point with 1991. Whereas that year saw the birth of digital mass communication, 2024 is a supernova of artificial content.

Within a year from the summer of 1991, homes received AOL compact discs in the mail. Teens in “Generation X” and the youngsters called “Millennials” would begin to connect to the Internet for instant communication and information.

As accurately portrayed in “Snack Shack,” 1991 proved the last hurrah of analog humanity.

The film arrives as we’re witnessing a revolution in the exploding proportion of AI-generated media. We could be just one year away from 90 percent of online content being AI-created, according to Nina Schick.

Forbes has reported on the “Dead Internet Theory” in which most online accounts become AI fakes.

Thus, “Snack Shack’s” setting is a pivot to reflect how well we faired at harnessing the creative opportunities presented by new technologies. When AJ and Moose win a disheveled shack as their summer prize–like the “gift” many have considered the Internet to be–the teens’ uniquely human vision for their enterprise bonds them.

That “win” also adds challenges to their social lives as well as their friendship.


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Rehmeier, as he did for “Dinner in America,” unwraps a niche age in a way that wider audiences can chew on. Stylistically, there is EMF’s pop hit “Unbelievable” to enjoy as the beat paces an action sequence, and the lingo and dress transport us to a critical place and time.

Youth, as is distilled in Moose and AJ, innately forges forward.

Information may be limited or abundant, but heart, faith and new trials and errors are irreplaceable. In life, as in metaphor, it is with these qualities that people gather for social interaction by a pool that might be fed by the thousands.

If a movie could contain specific antidotes to Perot supporters’ and others’ concerns about what technocratic, globalized America stands to lose, it would, like “Snack Shack,” be produced by heartland Americans in their own neighborhood.

While the endeavor taken by AJ and Moose may bring danger, the teens’ quest for success and even love showcases the old-fashioned, but not to be discarded, ingenuity, daring and appetite to make the most of summer and beyond.

Snack Shack,” which also stars David Costabile, Gillian Vigman, Mika Abdalla and Nick Robinson, opens March 15. 

Michael Bedar’s articles appear in Free the People, The Federalist, American Spectator, and American Thinker. He’s written a novel and produced documentaries about freedom, nature and wellbeing. He is the designer of the online course, Free Creation, for documentarians and digital course makers to learn how to maximize their reach and impact through distribution.


  1. Gen X-er here. Graduated from high school Class of 1988.
    Words cannot describe how grateful I am for being born at a time where I could have a childhood before the Internet and “smart” phones.

    1. Same, class of 90. We were always riding bikes, swimming at the old quarry, going to concerts, I played in bands, etc. It was really cool growing up at the tail end of the analog generation and the birth of the digital.

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