Directed by Carl Reiner
97 minutes. PG-13
VHS from Paramount
I have this memory about Summer School (the movie, not the school). I remember being picked up by my dad on the last day of school; I must have been in fourth or fifth grade. He asked me what I wanted to do and I told him that I want to go to Home Video (my local video store) and rent SUMMER SCHOOL! I remember thinking to myself: "This is the best way to start summer!" I have no clue why I thought this was the best way to kick off summer but I had it in my head that it was the greatest idea ever and this it made perfect sense to watch a movie about kids stuck in school for the summer when mine was just beginning school free. I think I tried to make it a tradition but it never stuck. Regardless, my dad and I had a blast watching this wacky, good natured and strangely gory comedy.
Summer School stars Mark Harmon (best known for NCIS) as lovable gym teacher Freddy Shoop. It’s the last day of school and he’s got his hot girlfriend waiting for him in the parking lot with two tickets to Hawaii. Unfortunately for him, the teacher that was supposed to teach summer school just won the lottery and quit, leaving the dick bag of a Vice-Principal to blackmail Shoop into teaching summer school otherwise he doesn’t get tenure! His girlfriend takes one of the tickets and leaves without him. Even as a kid I thought that shit was cold. Also what if that ticket was non-refundable? A ticket to Hawaii is probably expensive. That Vice-Principal owes Shoop like, a BUNCH of money. So the now single Shoop is supposed to teach an English class full of “weirdos” and “losers”. The only problem is that Shoop is a gym teacher and knows nothing about actual teaching. The weirdos and losers are totally awesome by the way. There’s a kid who sleeps all day and happens to be a stripper at night, a pregnant chick, a hot foreign exchange student, a dumb nerd, and a dyslexic girl. They are basically the summer school version of the X-Men with each one possessing a different ability (and yes, I do realize that I just called dyslexia an ability). The Wolverine and Cyclops of this group are Chainsaw and Dave. They are two horror obsessed movie nerds who are really good at make-up and gore effects. Those two and Mark Harmon’s irresistible charm are what make this movie for me.
This movie is just super fun. There's not a whole lot to distinguish this from other movies about misfits in school but it has an indescribable charm to it. It never takes itself too seriously and even in it's most dramatic moments it manages to stay light-hearted. When Shoop finds out that one of his students has dyslexia, most movies would make a really dramatic scene out of it with dramatic music in the background and serious faces and crying and other shit like that but Summer School just points out that this girl has dyslexia and rolls with it. No big deal. That's how this movie handles all of it's problems. Girl can't read? No big deal, Shoop'll help her learn. Pregnancy girl needs a Lamaze coach? No big deal, Shoop'll help her out. Everyone needs to pass the English test at the end of the summer otherwise they can't graduate AND Shoop will be out of a job? No big dea... no wait, that is a big deal. The movie goes from a montage of Shoop and the students not caring and going on insane field trip after insane field trip to a montage of them working hard and studying for the big test. I love me some montages and this movie is basically one big montage. It's fantastic.
There is a moment in this movie that has always stuck with me. When the class is on a field trip to a petting zoo and are leaving to go back to school Chainsaw and Dave burst out of a barn with four rabbits ripping apart their faces. They scream for help as they peel the rabbits off, ripping the flesh off their cheeks. They fall to the ground and bleed out. Cut to the class cheering and the foreign exchange student totally freaked out. They get up, show that it was just make-up and the foreign exchange student LOVES it. Classic. I wanted nothing more than to do something like that to impress the hot chicks in my class but unfortunately I was not skilled in the art of special effects and as it turns out chicks are not really into that sort of thing. Who knew!?
I have many fond memories of this film and unlike many films of my youth, this one still holds up. Director Carl Reiner brought a warmth and charm that hit the right chords for me both as a kid and as an adult. Light-hearted, a tad inspirational and totally rad. Summer School is a great way to start the summer!
Set Yourself Up:
- If you want to be as cool as Shoop then grab a jar of peanut butter and spoon and you're good to go.
- If you need a beverage then I would go for something summer-y: pina coladas or strawberry margaritas