Summer School: Life's A Beach Edition Carl Reiner

Before there was Ski School and Ski School 2 there was Summer School, a light-hearted, light-headed ’80s comedy that got panned by critics. But I don’t really know why. The casting of comedy novice Mark Harmon by Carl Reiner was a stroke of genius. Harmon, pretty much unfamiliar to comedy at that point, casually but masterfully plays Freddy Shoop, a smart-ass beach bum just looking to get away to Hawaii for the summer with his girlfriend. Unfortunately, his uptight vice principal (Robin Thomas) has other plans, like assigning him to teach a summer school English course filled with delinquents. But it’s not so bad because now he can chase fellow teacher Kirstie Alley’s tail. Cue the hormones, the slacking and the constant gags, which as insignificant as they sound are the core of this film. Characters such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre freaks like Chainsaw and Dave, Larry the day sleeper, the luscious Italian foreign exchange student and the big dude that skips the entire semester and scores a 91 on his final make this film what it is through the field trips (i.e., the petting zoo with the unforgettable flesh-eating bunnies) and bribes they enforce on Shoop. Underneath all of the wisecracking though lie a number of socially conscious messages about teen pregnancy, dyslexia, illiteracy, teen stripping and horror geekdom. It’s impressive that they even bothered but the film tends to come up half-assed sentimentally, largely because they’ve given so many atomic wedgies that delivering a heartfelt message is kind of hopeless. Nevertheless, it’s a valiant effort. Reiner and Harmon give a commentary that proves just how proud the legendary director/actor is of the film — no seriously, he gets into it. One interesting note is that the final scene with Harmon and Alley making out on the sand in the waves, where Wondermutt the dog (Bo) joins in and licks their faces, was completely improvised. So was Harmon planting a wet one on Wondermutt’s lips. Two featurettes, "Inside the Teacher’s Lounge” and "Summer School Yearbook,” include some then and now interviews discussing just how great it was to be involved. Plus: trailer. (Fox)