Film Review: Summer School (1987)

Release Date: July 22nd, 1987
Directed by: Carl Reiner
Written by: Jeff Franklin, Stuart Birnbaum, David Dashev
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Mark Harmon, Kirstie Alley, Robin Thomas, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Dean Cameron, Gary Riley, Patrick Labyorteaux, Kelly Jo Minter, Shawnee Smith, Richard Steven Horvitz, Ken Olandt, Fabiana Udenio, Duane Davis, Carl Reiner

Paramount Pictures, 97 Minutes

Review:

“Our next field trip has to be to the beach.” – Chainsaw, “We have to see Annamaria in a bikini. It’s very important.” – Dave

I feel like Summer School was lost in the shuffle all of all the teen comedies back when it came out. I mean, there were a ton of these type of movies in the late ’80s. I never even saw it until the early ’90s on cable but I immediately loved it.

For one, I’ve always liked Mark Harmon. He was on a few shows that my mum watched and he just always came across as a cool and likable guy. But in Summer School he’s probably even more so, especially from the perspective of a kid growing up, as he was the sort of teacher you always wanted.

Additionally, the kids in this are all pretty great and many of them went on to have pretty good careers in television and film.

The story centers around Harmon’s Freddy Shoop, a high school P.E. teacher off to Hawaii for the summer when he gets stuck having to teach summer school to a class of losers. Although, as we learn, the kids aren’t losers, they just need a different kind of approach to learning and some motivation. Over the course of the story, Shoop and the kids build a great bond and by the end, they’ve all vastly improved under his style of teaching, which irritates the snooty principal.

This film really solidified Dean Cameron as one of the best guys to play a stoner type. His best friend in this, Gary Riley, was another young actor that always made me smile when I’d see him pop up in things.

Additionally, this film really benefits from Kirstie Alley’s involvement. This is right before she rose to prominence on Cheers but this movie allowed her to exercise her solid comedic acting chops, which would go on to define her career going forward.

While I don’t think that this movie will play well for those who didn’t grow up in the ’80s or ’90s and don’t already like these sort of goofy, teen comedies, I still think it’s a better film than one might expect. In a sea of similar pictures, it’s definitely better than average and just has fun characters while being an entertaining and amusing movie about a teacher giving a crap about kids that everyone else has given up on.

Rating: 6.75/10

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