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Paramount Home Video presents
Summer School (Life's a Beach Edition) (1987)

"Can I call my folks and tell them I won't be coming home...ever?"
- Chainsaw (Dean Cameron)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga  
Published: May 24, 2007

Stars: Mark Harmon, Kirstie Alley
Other Stars: Courtney Thorne-Smith, Dean Cameron, Gary Riley, Kelly Minter, Patrick Labyorteaux, Ken Olandt, Robin Thomas, Amy Stock, Richard Steven Horvitz, Shawnee Smith, Fabiana Udenio
Director: Carl Reiner

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for (adult language)
Run Time: 01h:37m:17s
Release Date: May 22, 2007
UPC: 097361223049
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

So many 1980s "guilty pleasure" movies, so little time. Along with One Crazy Summer, one of the most memorable of these was 1987's Summer School. It features the most basic premise, utilizing a formula that was tried and true in this era: mix together a group of misfit kids with an equally flawed adult figure, add a few dirty words, sexual innuendos, scantily clad women, and potential catch phrases, and you get 90 minutes of comedy bits that somehow manage to stay in your subconscious for years.

The specifics of this plot involve high school gym teacher Freddy Shoop (Mark Harmon), who is about to spend his summer in Hawaii with girlfriend Kim (Amy Stock). Those plans are thwarted when he's blackmailed into teaching summer school by the weasely vice principal, Phil Gills (Robin Thomas). The class of malcontents he lands include always-tired Larry (Ken Olandt), horror film buffs Chainsaw (Dean Cameron) and Dave (Gary Riley), bossy Denise (Kelly Minter), Pam (Courtney Thorne-Smith), Kevin (Patrick Labyorteaux), pregnant Rhonda (Shawnee Smith), geeky Alan (Richard Steven Horvitz), and hot exchange student, Anna-Maria (Fabiana Udenio). Grabbing their attention is a task in itself, but if Shoop can help them pass an English test, he'll finally have tenure, and maybe even win the heart of his colleague (and Gills' girlfriend), Robin (Kirstie Alley).

Revisiting this after 20 years brought a slew of memories rushing to my brain. Not surprisingly, most of these centered on the Chainsaw and Dave characters. There's the memorable "Take your seats/Where do we take 'em" exchange, and their rather amazing use of special effects in the classroom, but I can also thank these two nitwit guys for introducing me to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Actors Cameron and Riley do fine jobs playing these slackers, and it's too bad their performances didn't catapult them to bigger and better acting gigs. Riley was almost completely off the Hollywood map following this film, but Cameron did give another memorable turn in the criminally underrated 1988 horror flick, Bad Dreams.

Revisiting this movie also reminded me of the days when Mark Harmon was extremely charming as he is here as Shoop, maintaining a nice chemistry with the appealing Kirstie Alley, and actually making us yearn for a "cool" teacher like him. Harmon isn't the only cast member in the midst of his best days with Summer School, as Alley is good in a limited role, and future Melrose Place resident Thorne-Smith shows a ton of potential as the surfer girl pining for Shoop's attention. Seeing these generally respected actors in their early days adds a new level to the film's nostalgic appeal.

This has stood the test of time for a handful of reasons, but the main one is that it's still very funny. While not the kind of piece you'd expect to dwell in director Carl Reiner's (The Jerk) filmography, his character-centric comedic style is largely responsible for keeping the material fresh 20 years later. Writer and Full House creator Jeff Franklin's story is tight and despite the temptation of the times, never ventures into the unwelcome land of gratuitous nudity and exploitative sex scenes. You'll have to see the Porky's films or about 50 other '80s comedies for that, as this is all about summer fun, with characters that we actually care about and root for.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation mostly hides the film's age, aside from a rough opening sequence. Grain is prevalent during this opening, but after the credits are through, the transfer calms down for the most part. Images aren't razor sharp, but detail is nice, while contrast and shadow levels are consistent. The colors are bright and vivid, never suffering from bleeding or any other potential blemishes.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The original mono audio is available, but the track of choice is the Dolby Digital 5.1. This isn't as dynamic as newer efforts, but there's still a bit of channel separation and directional effects, which are miles above the mono. The power of the film is in the hilarious dialogue, though, and every bit of that comes across crystal clear.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Carl Reiner and Mark Harmon.
Packaging: Keep Case
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: A nice collection of extras include an audio commentary track by Mark Harmon and director Carl Reiner. Harmon does most of the talking, telling some funny stories about the production, but also going into detail about the cast, locations, and story.

Inside the Teachers Lounge is a new, 14-minute documentary that serves as a great retrospective on the 20-year-old film. We get a mix of new and old interview footage from much of the cast and crew, who muse about the evolution of the script, Reiner's direction, and other minute details. The new interviews are the main reason to check this out, as many of these performers have gone unseen for years.

The Summer School Yearbook is an 11-minute piece that focuses on the high school students in the film. While most, if not all of the actors playing these kids are interviewed, it's unfortunate that the footage is over 20-years-old.

There's also the theatrical trailer for Summer School and a photo gallery.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Break out your surf boards and Ray-Bans and enjoy an '80s summer in the new Summer School (Life's a Beach Edition) from Paramount. This is a film that has persevered thanks to cable TV and home video, and it's rewarded with this reissue that features solid audio and video presentations, and a handful of new extras that will keep fans happy for years to come.


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