80s Odyssey: Summer School (1987)

summer_school This past week has been pretty wonderful because the weather has turned from cold and gray to sunny and nice. In addition to a change in weather, I’ve also noticed a change in the kinds of movies I want to watch. I’ve gone from 80s and 90s action movies to a mix of cheesy 80s summer comedies and favorites. The other day I watched my beloved Dazed & Confused again which seems to get better every time I watch it and now I’m going through Netflix Instant’s “Late Night Comedy” offerings for lighter fare. I did this last year and added plenty of entries in the 80s Odyssey section of the site, but wound up watching a lot more than I reviewed. I could have sworn that Summer School was one of those movies, but decided to give it a whirl anyway.

Well, turns out I was wrong and I’ve never seen this movie, but it’s actually a nice treat. I wasn’t expecting much, but it turned out to be a fun movie with a good deal of heart. The plot revolves around gym teacher Mark Harmon (who plays “cool 80s adult” perfectly) getting roped into teaching summer school to a bunch of kids who seem like lost causes, but instead all have fairly legitimate reasons for not doing well in school (being pregnant, having dyslexia, being tired thanks to working and of course the usual not caring about school). In the process of trying to get tenure (is that even a thing for high school teachers?) and keep his job, Harmon agrees to help the kids do something in exchange for passing the final test.

I really enjoyed this movie. It wasn’t the depraved summer movie I figured it would be, but that was actually a nice surprise. Speaking of nice surprises, there was actually a really rad one for horror fans. Two of the guys — the stoners/drunks, of course — are gigantic horror fans to the point where one of them actually goes by Chainsaw because he’s such a big fan of Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The kids want to scare away a sub after Harmon gets in some trouble, so the horror kids make it look like they went crazy and violently murdered their fellow classmates and it looked awesome! To the point where I’m kind of surprised the film still has a PG-13 rating. I mean, one kid had pencil sharpener sharpened fingers, another had a ruler jammed in their mouth. It looked like much bloodier versions of the Beetlejuice effects. I’d say it looked better than most of the special effects in the horror movies of that year. So that’s a nice little bonus making this movie extra worth checking out.

After watching this movie and writing about it I looked a little more closely at the IMDb and realized two things that are pretty shocking. First off, this movie was directed by Carl Freaking Reiner! He also has a cameo as a teacher, but I didn’t recognize him at the time. He also directed Summer Rental which is high on my summer to-watch list. As if that wasn’t enough Danny Elfman actually worked on the score. This was after he did the Rodney Dangerfield movie Back To School but a little before Beetlejuice.

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