As it’s the start of September, most of us will be heading back to work, school or college. So to commemorate this ritual, today I’m reviewing the rather obscure Carl Reiner comedy, “Summer School”. It’s a movie that I stumbled across on cable when I was a youngster, and despite the entire flick being clearly ridiculous and unrealistic, it has its moments, with its lead, Mark Harmon (later known as Gibbs in NCIS), providing most of the laughs.
Harmon is Freddy Shoop, gym teacher at Ocean Front High School, who, like most of us, lives for summer vacation. He’s due to head off to Hawaii with his much younger girlfriend, Kim (Amy Stoch). However, when the teacher assigned to teach Remedial English wins the lottery, thus skipping out of his assignment (Reiner himself in a cameo),Vice Principal Gills (Robin Thomas) seeks out Shoop to teach this colourful ensemble of misfit students, to which Shoop accepts, with much reluctance.
The students are composed of nerdy Alan (Richard Steven Horvitz), Pam (Courtney Thorne-Smith), a girl who tends to get distracted easily, narcoleptic Larry (Ken Olandt), football athlete Kevin (Patrick Labyorteaux), hot-tempered dyslexic Denise (Kelly Jo Minter), intimidating Jerome (Duane Davis), pregnant Rhonda (Shawnee Smith), Italian exchange student Anna Maria (Fabiana Udenio) and Chainsaw and Dave (Dean Cameron and Gary Riley), a pair of slackers who are obsessed with horror movies.
The teens and Shoop spend the first days skipping classes and having fun, but Gills insists that they actually down get to learning the course work. The teenagers start to bribe Shoop by demanding certain “favours” off of him, may they be driving lessons, Lamaze classes or parties. While attempting to rein in the kids, Shoop takes a liking to the comely Robin Bishop (Kirstie Alley), who teaches History next door to his classroom. Unfortunately for Shoop, she hates his guts and is already dating Gills. Can Shoop manage to win the girl and ensure that his class pass a vital exam, amidst all the wackiness that ensues?
I’m going to get right down to it and state that if you like straightforward, realistic movies, then “Summer School” is probably not the film for you. Watching it as a 15 year old, I could probably have commented that the most improbable scene in a overall silly comedy was that after the police arrest Shoop for supposedly giving alcohol to the kids, he’s put into a jail cell while still donning his roller skates!
However, the movie still manages to offer some moments of charm, as well as some genuine laughs, such as the elaborate prank the students play on Gills and another teacher, at Dave and Chainsaw’s doing. On the other hand, it was hard at times to keep track on the amount of story lines all vying for attention, and I sometimes I got confused as to what was occurring.
I’m giving “Summer School” a solid rating of 3 out of 5 stars, as it’s enjoyable and corny, despite its many flaws. Kids of 13 and over might enjoy the goofiness of it all!