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Carl Reiner
Mark Harmon, Kirstie Alley, Robin Thomas, Patrick Labyorteaux, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Dean Cameron, Gary Riley, Kelly Jo Minter
Writing Credits:
Stuart Birnbaum, David Dashev, Jeff Franklin

At Ocean Front High, what do they call a guy who cuts classes, hates homework, and lives for summer vacations? Teacher.

School's out, and Ocean Front High gym teacher Freddy Shoop (Mark Harmon) has big plans: summer in Hawaii. But the school's vice-principal has plans for Freddy, too: teaching remedial English. Aloha, paradise - hello Summer School.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross
$35.658 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Monaural
French Monaural
Supplements Subtitles::

Runtime: 97 min.
Price: $14.99
Release Date: 5/22/2007

• Audio Commentary with Director Carl Reiner and Actor Mark Harmon
• “Inside the Teachers’ Lounge” Featurette
• “Summer School Yearbook” Featurette
• Photo Gallery
• Trailer


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


Summer School: Life's A Beach Edition (1987)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 11, 2007)

Does a film count as a guilty pleasure if one doesn’t feel terribly guilty about their affection for it? I don’t know, but I suppose 1987’s Summer School falls into that category. I loved the movie back in the late Eighties, and while I now see more of its flaws, it remains a reasonably fun and amusing piece.

At the start of the film, long-time teacher Dearadorian (director Carl Reiner) wins the lottery. This means he no longer needs to teach summer school, so Vice Principal Phil Gills (Robin Thomas) scrambles to find someone to teach remedial English. A batch of high school students flunked the English Skills Test, so they need to retake it after this class ends.

Slacker gym teacher Freddy Shoop (Mark Harmon) intends to go to Hawaii with his girlfriend Kim (Amy Stock), but Gills snares him for the teaching assignment. Shoop tries to refuse, but Gills threatens Shoop with a lack of tenure if he doesn’t take the job. Kim goes to Hawaii without Shoop, but he soon meets history teacher Robin Bishop (Kirstie Alley) and falls in love again. He spends the rest of the movie trying to endear himself to her, something that becomes complicated since she just started to see Gills.

Shoop’s class includes a motley mix. We meet football player Kevin (Patrick Labyorteaux), sleepy Larry (Ken Olandt), horror flick obsessed Chainsaw (Dean Cameron) and his buddy Dave (Gary Riley), surfer girl Pam (Courtney Thorne-Smith), nerdy Alan Eakian (Richard Steven Horvitz), pregnant Rhonda (Shawnee Smith), sassy Denise (Kelly Minter), and exchange student Anna-Maria (Fabiana Udenio). Initially the kids walk all over him, and he doesn’t even bother to try to teach them; they just take a series of field trips to places like the beach and an amusement park.

When Gills finds out about this, he plans to suspend Shoop until the school’s principal can return and officially fire him. However, Shoop offers a challenge: if he can get all the kids to pass the test, he retains his job. Gills agrees, and Shoop negotiates with the students to get them to work. He needs to exchange favors to convince them to learn. He also asks for help from Robin. The rest of the flick follows the wackiness that ensues on all fronts.

Summer School is one of those films I can’t judge objectively. As I noted already, I loved it in the Eighties and although I’d not seen it much over the last two decades, I still remembered it very well. Actually, this screening finally solved an ongoing confusion. I occasionally use the phrase “dumb dildo” but for the life of me, I couldn’t recall where I got it. Summer School is the answer - I was so relieved when I heard it here!

Plenty of other lines and gags stayed in my head, so at times, I couldn’t quite establish if I felt amused because the material was actually funny or simply because of my fond memories. To be sure, School hasn’t aged terribly well. The movie came across as a product of its era, with the usual broad wackiness and Eighties attitude on full display.

The movie also suffers from some notable plot holes. We see lots of students early in the film who vanish mysteriously after a while, though some of them occasionally pop up when the story decides it needs them. This makes no sense and becomes a real concern, especially when the flick goes over the test at the end; we see and hear nothing about the other kids and the flick doesn’t care at all.

Ultimately, the movie overcomes these flaws pretty well just because it tosses in too much fun and vivacity to entertain. The cast certainly helps. We find no master thespians in the crew, and they don’t get much to work with from their thinly drawn characters, but they create fun personalities for the most part.

Some fare better than others, of course. Dave and Rhonda exist in almost an Afterschool Special world of unusual love, and they don’t fit terribly well with the others. When Kim falls for Shoop, though, this blends pretty well and doesn’t become quite so mawkish.

The film’s heart lies with the wackiness exhibited by Chainsaw and Dave. Clearly they exist as the flick’s prime supporting characters, and it uses them for good comic effect whenever possible. This means the movie departs from reality to allow them to shine, but that seems acceptable. This isn’t meant to be a documentary, so I can forgive the flick’s digressions for comedic effect.

Mostly, Summer School moves briskly and seems like a tight and fun film. Will it offer much amusement for folks who didn’t see it within its Eighties context? I don’t know, but 20 years after its first release, I continue to enjoy it despite a mix of weaknesses.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio C+/ Bonus C

Summer School appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. An erratic presentation, the movie varied from scene to scene but generally looked good.

Sharpness usually seemed acceptable. A little softness interfered on occasion, but those moments were reasonably rare. Most of the movie presented a fairly accurate and distinct image. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no concerns, but some light edge enhancement periodically marred the presentation.

Shockingly, virtually no print flaws appeared, though you’d not expect such a clean presentation based on the movies opening moments. The credits presented intense grain, and parts of the flick offered heavier than usual grain as well. However, most seemed free of that issue, and otherwise, I noticed almost no instances of specks, marks or other defects. It’d look clean for a recent movie, so the absence of problems for one from made 20 years ago became especially pleasing.

Colors seemed erratic. They displayed the usual Eighties murkiness at times, but they also often looked nicely vibrant and distinct. For the most part, the hues came across as solid, though, especially during the many daytime exterior shots. Black levels tended to appear somewhat inky, while shadow detail was a little too dense at times. Interiors occasionally seemed flat and muddy. Really, the interiors caused the majority of the transfer’s concerns, as the outside images consistently looked much stronger. Most of Summer School actually looked very strong, but the various concerns seemed prominent enough to drop my grade to a “B“.

The film’s remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack added a little life to the original monaural material. Unsurprisingly, the mix featured a heavy emphasis on the forward channels. Music showed minor stereo separation, while effects displayed light breadth and delineation at times. All of this remained fairly vague, as not much about the placement or imaging seemed distinctive; the track stayed with general atmosphere and little else. The surrounds seemed virtually silent throughout the flick and never played an active role.

Audio quality came across as decent. Speech appeared fairly distinct and natural, with no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects sounded clean and accurate, but they usually lacked much in the way of dynamics. Music was somewhat thin and lackluster as well, as the flick’s score and Eighties source tunes seemed concise but not much better. I didn’t expect much from the audio of Summer School and I got what I anticipated from this fairly average mix.

How did the picture and audio of this 2007 “Life’s a Beach Edition” of Summer School compare to those of the prior DVD from 2004? Both releases seemed identical, as I thought the 2007 disc looked and sounded the same as its predecessor.

Whereas the old DVD came with no extras, the “Life’s a Beach Edition” also includes a decent mix of supplements. We begin with an audio commentary from director Carl Reiner and actor Mark Harmon. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. They talk about cast and performances, locations, cut sequences and a mix of little anecdotes from the shoot.

That sounds like it should turn into a fun commentary. Unfortunately, this track remains pretty dull most of the time. Reiner and Harmon seem like nice guys, but they don’t tell us much about the movie. They chat about parts that they like and praise a lot of things. This means little actual information escapes, and we also come across a lot of dead air. The best notes come from Harmon, such as when he talks about how he re-broke his shoulder during the shoot. However, even those nuggets appear infrequently. Don’t expect much from this disappointing commentary.

Two featurettes follow. Inside the Teachers’ Lounge runs 14 minutes, 13 seconds as it mixes movie clips, archival materials and interviews. We hear from Harmon, Reiner, screenwriter Jeff Franklin and actors Ken Olandt, Patrick Labyorteaux, Robin Thomas, Kirstie Alley (from 1986), and Dean Cameron. We get info about the script and its development, how Reiner came onboard and his work on the set, casting, characters, and performances, and the movie’s legacy.

“Lounge” doesn’t qualify as a great program, but it’s enjoyable. It gives us a smattering of decent notes about the production and throws out enough good material to keep us involved. I’d like something more substantial, but this show will do.

Summer School Yearbook goes for 11 minutes, one second and includes Franklin, Cameron, Reiner, Olandt, Labyorteaux, and actors Kelly Minter (1986), Courtney Thorne Smith (1986), Richard Steven Horvitz (1986), Fabiana Udenio (1986) and Shawnee Smith (1986). This one looks at the high school kids, as we learn more about their casting and characters. It acts as a nice complement to “Lounge”, though again, it’s not a particularly full examination of the flick. It’s also a shame that so few of the actors returned to discuss the movie. Nonetheless, it’s worth a look.

We also get a Photo Gallery. It presents 24 images that mix shots from the flick and publicity stills. They’re almost all dull, though a couple of bikini glimpses of Fabiana Udenio spice things up a bit. We also discover the trailer for School.

While definitely a product of its era, Summer School nonetheless offers enough goofy fun to be a kick. The movie presents light and wacky fun to become a reasonably amusing piece. The DVD offers generally good picture with fairly average audio and extras. Fans of Eighties comedies should give Summer School a look.

Should folks who already own the old Summer School DVD double dip for this “Life’s a Beach Edition” of the film? Probably not, as the picture and sound remain the same, and the added supplements just aren’t that good. The commentary disappoints, and the other elements are fairly fluffy. If you don’t have the old disc, definitely go for this one, but I don’t think it’s worth repurchasing just for the extras.

To rate this film visit the original review of SUMMER SCHOOL

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