Summer School is one of those films that I really enjoyed as a boy growing up in the 80’s. It had crazy characters, pretty girls, funny one-liners and cool people, like Mark Harmon. Watching the film today, I can honestly say that it is as good now as it was then. The only problem is, I have matured as a person and as a movie viewer. The characters are still crazy, but they are also largely annoying. The girls are still pretty, and the foreign exchange student is the same woman who played Allota Fagina in A…stin Powers, but Kirstie Alley is no longer the girl America once thought she was. There are still some great one-liners, but many of the attempts at humor fall painfully flat. And then there’s Mark Harmon. While he was cool at the time, I can now see that he most closely resembles the bastard offspring of Dave Coulier and Kevin Costner.
The film is certainly entertaining enough for a casual viewing. The premise is a simple one. Mark Harmon plays a coach who is tapped to teach remedial English in Summer School. Nobody wants to be there, but the mad cap band of misfits comes together to do what has to be done, while having fun along the way. It is a story that has been told on screen countless times, with similar results. If it weren’t for the excessive gore (provided by two students obsessed with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and one character dropping the “F” bomb, I’d think this was one of the never-ending stream of Disney flicks that follows this formula to mediocre glory.
Director Carl Reiner gave it a valiant effort, and he met some moderate success, but this film is not a fair representation of his skills as a comedian. This is the perfect film for Comedy Central to run on a Saturday afternoon, or for Pizza Hut to hand out with a box of deep dish pepperoni. I could even see a rental by some misguided high school kids. This disc, however, is certainly not one for purchase.
I was very disappointed with the quality of the audio track on this disc. The box advertised that not only had the original mono track been re-mastered, but that there was a new 5.1 track as well. The new 5.1 track is here, all right, but it is really just a glorified mono mix. There are no surrounds, no sound separation between the front three speakers, and no bass response whatsoever. The whole film is treble-heavy, which gives a harsh edge to the cheesy 80’s pop songs that are scattered throughout the film. I understand that this film doesn’t have the same need for 5.1 as, say, Independence Day, but a little more effort would have been nice. Viewers might as well just listen in the original mono. There is really no need to fire up the home theater.
This disc’s video quality, thankfully, is much improved from previous versions. The newly-available widescreen presentation may not be necessary, but it sure is nice. Black levels are surprisingly deep, and the picture is as clear as the water in the Virgin Islands. I was quite pleased with how clean this transfer comes across. I did not find a single blemish throughout the picture.
The video presentation is far from perfect, however. Whites are not true white, and colors, while plentiful, are a bit on the dull side as well. A summer movie should have vibrant colors that pop off the screen. These colors are good, but not great.
There is not a single special feature to be found on this disc. Not a trailer, not a bio… not even an insert in the case. This is as bare bones as they come.
I am sure that Carl Reiner knew he was not making Casablanca. Unfortunately, he didn’t even make it up to the level of National Lampoon’s Vacation. Summer School is a decent comedy with some amusing one-liners, but that’s about it. Watch this one on TV, and save your DVD dollars for something with a bit more comic value.
Special Features List