‘Snack Shack’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: Is Shane Dead?


It’s not that we’ve taken coming-of-age comedies for granted. The reason this genre’s been going mostly unappreciated is pretty simple. Only once in a blue moon does a film of this genre actually capture authentic emotions. There’s nostalgia written all over Adam Carter’s Snack Shack. Drawing from his own experiences as a kid working a summer job with his best friend, Carter’s sincere approach to storytelling avoids all the mistakes that usually doom films like Snack Shack.

Spoiler Alert

What Is The Film About?

When it comes to A.J. and Moose, it’s hard to say who’s the bad influence on whom. Moose is definitely the more chaotic and impulsive one. But when it comes to making daring choices and actually pulling them off, A.J. is the one Moose looks up to. There’s no trouble that the two scrawny 14-year-olds don’t get up to in the state of Nebraska. From betting on racehorses to making top-notch brewskies, they’re naturals when it comes to making a quick buck. These obviously cause A.J.’s parents a lot of headaches. But being grounded can’t stop the two troublemakers from dreaming big. 

How do they acquire the Snack Shack?

A.J. would rather spend the summer in his room than go for the options his mom prefers for his summer job. The big idea of running the Snack Shack at the local pool falls into their lap thanks to Shane, A.J.’s slightly older friend, freshly back from the military. But before they can win the Shack at the City Council auction, they gotta figure out how much it usually goes for. Trouble is, they’re not too keen on running things by people who know more about how the world works. They obviously get taken for a ride and make the big mistake of draining A.J.’s savings account. They do win the Snack Shack at the auction. But it comes at the cost of the city council gleefully taking A.J.’s college fund and the poor kid getting a big ol’ thrashing from his parents. 

How do Snack Shack Become A successful business venture?

Shabby is an understatement for the condition Moose and A.J. find the Shack in. Without so much as a fridge or a microwave, the place is certainly going to be a challenge for the two young entrepreneurs. This is where Moose comes in. The kid never runs out of the oddest ideas to make the most of a bad situation. A 3-year-old stinky fridge from a funeral home and a battered microwave from God knows where, and they’re ready for business. But first, they need supplies. And for that, they need the kind of dough that’d require a lot of work. From painting curbs to repurposing old golf balls and selling them, Moose and A.J. work their socks off to make enough money. With the scorching summer heat making the poolgoers crowd in front of the Shack, the rest is smooth sailing. Pretty soon, Moose and A.J. are drowning in more cash than any other summer job would’ve gotten them. 

What causes a rift between Moose and A.J.?

A.J. and Moose may be thick as thieves, but that doesn’t mean that they see eye to eye in everything. For starters, Moose is way more pragmatic in his way of handling money. He’s already dreaming of being a proper Wall Streeter with the big bucks he’s making from the Snack Shack. Much to his dismay, A.J. is more of an emotional kid. He’d rather pay the money that he borrowed without permission back to his parents and give them a gift as a token of his gratitude. Yet you realize that it’s parents like Judge and Jean who make kids like A.J. None of these differences usually stand in the way of A.J. and Moose being partners in crime. But the most cliched yet very realistic factor gets in the middle of their unbreakable bond- a girl. A.J.’s nervous yet smitten eyes have noticed the new girl next door. Ever since Brooke’s given him an awful nickname and clicked a couple of embarrassing pictures of him having a sneezing fit, A.J. hasn’t been able to get Brooke off his mind. The more outgoing Moose, however, doesn’t wait as long as his friend does and wins Brooke over. While A.J. cuts his losses without complaint, given that Brooke’s picking Moose was partly on him, Moose isn’t as quiet when Brooke changes her mind about which of them she’s gonna date. Tension was already on the rise with Moose getting to know his friend is pining over the girl he’s seeing. But A.J., taking Shane’s advice and mustering up the courage to make a move on Brooke, pulls a bitter break on the friendship.

How does Shane’s death change everything?

In Snack Shack, it’s the authenticity of the dynamics we’re supposed to admire and/or feel nostalgic over that gets to you. There’s no space for corny dialogue or gestures in this story of a bunch of unruly kids, where cuss words and punches are frequently thrown around. What we get are a bunch of characters we’ve been or we’ve seen in passing or more closely. Brooke was always into A.J. And while her more brazenly sarcastic way of flirting wasn’t that obvious to an inexperienced kid like A.J., we’ve known all along. Moose has never implied that they have anything serious. So her choice to have a bit of casual summer fun isn’t something she can be condemned for. While Moose is entitled to his bitterness over feeling betrayed, A.J. is also just a teenager whose first crush likes him back. They’re real kids; they’re messing up and treating these feelings that they’re experiencing for the first time with as much grace as they can conjure up. 

A.J. is too damn unlucky to have love slip through his fingers when he mistakes Brooke’s brother for someone she’s seeing. Shane’s knocking some sense into the kid whenever he needs someone who’s like a friendly older brother certainly makes for some of the most heartwarming moments in the film. And it’s through these wholesome accounts that Shane grows on us too. A.J.’s a jittery kid with so much potential that he worries his parents. So Shane’s more easygoing life-advices are essential to A.J.’s growth. Life almost takes a swift upturn for A.J. before it decides to take a completely unexpected course with bad news and a traumatizing tragedy. So close to happiness he could almost feel it, A.J. was shattered by the news of Brooke having to leave soon. But what he expected even less was Shane’s heartbreaking death in an accident. It was convincing, given Shane was a reckless teen behind the wheel. But it was unbelievable to A.J. that he lost the guy who was the big brother he never had. Shane’s always been there for A.J., even through his fight with Moose. The fascinated kid was saving up his share of the Snack Shack profits for an Alaska trip with Shane, someone he thought was so cool he wanted to be him. The trip never comes, and even Brooke’s whisked away by her father’s transfer to Ramstein.

But the Snack Shack‘s ending creates something endearing out of this grim circumstance. Shane’s tragic passing has been a lesson to Judge, who’s just now realized that time isn’t promised. As he hands A.J. his “first” beer, it is his way of acknowledging that his kid’s about to be a young man. In Shane’s absence, A.J. will need to be what Shane would’ve asked him to be. And that can’t happen if he’s made to feel like a little kid. But it won’t be a boring journey at all, as the tragedy has made A.J. and Moose appreciate each other in a more outspoken way. The Snack Shack is running better than ever. The best thing about Snack Shack is that the nostalgia factor really hits you out of nowhere. You watch their lives unfold in the present while feeling reassured that they won’t be doing bad in life as they grow up—almost like they’re already adults and you’re watching a montage of their memories. 

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Lopamudra Mukherjee
Lopamudra Mukherjee
In cinema, Lopamudra finds answers to some fundamental questions of life. And since jotting things down always makes overthinking more fun, writing is her way to give this madness a meaning.

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