This image driven series shines an obnoxious pastel neon light on the 80-iest 80s movies around.
THAT’S SO 80s! takes a nostalgic trip down VHS memory lane, remembering some of the cheesiest movies from one of the cheesiest decades. Fellow movie connoisseur MOVIEROB joins forces with SLIP/THROUGH for a bi-weekly column highlighting some of the best scenes (and fashion choices) of the era.
Enjoy the tongue in cheek fun… and stay tuned for more.
Our first edition pokes fun at the 1987 cult classic comedy SUMMER SCHOOL , starring Mark Harmon, Kirstie Alley, and Courtney Thorne-Smith. Surprisingly, directed by legendary comedian Carl Reiner (creator of the DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, director of a few Steve Martin greats like THE JERK) – then 65.
This article is loaded with images, including quick retrospectives, and special 80s-themed ratings by the end.
Certain movies are so perfect for the tone and insights of the decade they were made in that it would be hard, if not impossible, to have made (or remade) them in any other decade. Summer School (1987) is a perfect example of this.
For the past 10 years or so, there have been numerous attempts to remake this movie with little success and each time the project had to be abandoned because the story or other elements just wouldn’t work.
The jokes, fashion, music and even the character development reflects what the 80s were all about and everything in this movie worked so well because of it.
SUMMER SCHOOL isn’t exactly TO SIR WITH LOVE or DANGEROUS MINDS. The teacher isn’t some saint on a mission to enhance the lives of disadvantaged youths. Our teacher, Shoop (a couple years before the Salt N Peppa song) is more an 80s beach bum who is kinda sorta punished to teach summer school. Along the way he comes to accept the challenge of making his students better. This isn’t as dramatic as it sounds. This comedy is focused on laughs.
This cult classic is chock full of 80s cheese… a lot of it in the fashion. However, this movie also has some old fashioned views about women. For example, there isn’t a lot of fuss when a student is romantically interested in Shoop. Not that it’s entirely as reprehensible as his flamboyant shorts, but it’s still a sign of the times.
The better 80s cliche is the affable outcast / loser. SUMMER SCHOOL’s version of BILL & TED was Chainsaw and Dave. These horror-obsessed guys steal the show. As MovieRob says below, the 80s had familiar character tropes that this comedy heavily borrowed.
MOVIEROB: OVERALL IMPRESSION
Perhaps part of my fascination with this movie relates to the fact that I saw it in the theater as a very impressionable 13 year old who loved movies and therefore was so enthralled by the way this reflected the time and place of when it was made.
Mark Harmon is such a great actor and despite being known for his very serious roles on TV (St. Elsewhere, Chicago Hope, and of course, NCIS), he did a great job as the zany laid back gym teacher forced to teach remedial English to a bunch of misfits over the summer.
I loved the way that the students and teacher are put on equal ground and the way that they negotiate in order to get what they want.
The students are obviously the typical archetypes, but it still works well; the jock, the brain, the dyslexic, the pregnant teen, the stud (in this case, the stripper), the goofball(s) (who happen to be horror movie fanatics), the beautiful foreign exchange student, and of course the day dreamer.
SLIP/THROUGH: OVERALL IMPRESSION
Sometimes we get in the mood for nostalgia. We check out some old movies from when we were younger. The 80s and 90s were that time for me. SUMMER SCHOOL was one of those comedies that made you feel like you were getting away with something. While not as crude as REVENGE OF THE NERDS or PORKY’S, this movie was somewhere in the middle. The prank classroom massacre is one of the best sequences. This gang of outcasts seemed cool, making this feel like a class I would want to attend.
Mark Harmon leads the way playing Shoop. As MovieRob points out, Harmon went on to great success after this 80s cult classic. His romantic interest in SUMMER SCHOOL is played by Kirstie Alley, who was rather popular into the 90s. Alley shines in a few moments, despite the weaker writing. She definitely has a playful presence.
Chainsaw and Dave didn’t go on to be recognized names in Hollywood, but fellow classmate Courtney Thorne-Smith did, appearing in big shows like MELROSE PLACE and ALLEY McBEAL. Another co-star, Shawnee Smith, is a fan fav with smaller roles in several 80s movies. Smith popped back up onto the silver screen with a recurring role in the SAW movies.
While I really enjoyed SUMMER SCHOOL back in the way-back, it hasn’t aged so well for me. Perhaps seeing so many movies since then made me recognize its weaknesses a little more. The story isn’t anything profound, but the characters make it worthwhile.
THAT’S SO 80S! RATINGS
* note: ratings are out of 5 *
RETRO rewind RATING (AKA WHAT 80S US THOUGHT)
MOVIEROB & SLIP/THROUGH
FAST FORWARD RATING (AKA HOW DOES IT HOLD UP)
SO, HOW 80S WAS IT?
What do you think?
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