Plot: What’s it about?
I can remember seeing this movie when it first came out on home video (that’s VHS for those of you that remember the format); something my mother picked up at the video store just because it looked funny. We all watched it, loved it and I’ve seen the movie about a dozen times since. Granted, there’s not a lot beneath the surface of this film, it’s your typical late 80’s teen-surfer-slacker movie that happened to have Mark Harmon and Kirstie Alley in the leads and featured a then very unknown Courtney Thorne-Smith (who I immediately had a crush on after seeing this movie). I never went to Summer School until college, and as it turns out it’s really not all that bad. But from a teacher’s point of view it must be hell. And that’s the premise behind the movie: class when no one wants to be there – teacher or students.
Mark Harmon plays Coach Shoop, a teacher about to head off to Hawaii with his girlfriend only to be dragged into teaching Summer School English at the last minute. He’s vying for tenure, so he really has no choice to but do it and his girlfriend takes off to Hawaii anyway. Naturally he’s got a wide variety of students in the class and after some initial bumps along the road, he makes deals with them. While some might frown on a teacher bribing students to do their homework, it actually works for Coach Shoop and he starts to fall for a co-worker, Ms. Bishop (Kirstie Alley) – also a teacher. As the students start to show promise over the summer, they start to bond but the end of the term test looms large over their heads. Will they pass the test and thus grant Coach Shoop his tenure or will they fail?
Ok, let’s face facts here, Summer School isn’t the best movie ever made. But I will say that it’s fairly enjoyable. Carl Reiner directed the film and he certainly knows a thing or two about directing comedies. I have no idea why this film got the double dip treatment of all the catalog titles in Paramount’s library but hey, it’s nice to have this film looking its best and with a commentary track to boot. Summer School is filled with memorable characters, though somewhat stereotypical. Then again, this movie was made in 1987 so I suppose that makes it a little more acceptable than if the movie were made today.
Video: How does it look?
It’s been a while since I’ve seen the film on disc (I did manage to catch it while channel surfing, pardon the pun, a few years ago). That said, Shout! has given the film a new transfer, though it’s clearly sourced from an older master. I don’t imagine that they put too much effort into a full “4K restoration” for this one. And that’s fine. Colors are bold and bright, suntans abound, detail is above average and though a thin layer of grain is present, it’s not distracting. It looks good, but not great.
Audio: How does it sound?
The DTS HD Master audio soundtrack that doesn’t really do a lot to justify your home theater setup. The opening credits sound fairly nice but for the most part, this is a very straight-forward track. Surrounds don’t really offer much assistance but then again they don’t really need to. Reiner’s films have all the comedy on screen and don’t rely on 5.1 sound to make their statements. That said, this is about as average as you get.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – The real treat here is the commentary by actor Mark Harmon and director Carl Reiner. The two deliver a pretty good commentary track and seem to have fun reminiscing about the shoot, the cast and everything else. True fans will want to pick up the disc for this track alone. Notably, this is the same track from the Paramount DVD.
- School’s In for Summer – One of the cast members, Richard Steven Horvitz, does a video call recounting his audition as well as the experience of working with Carl Reiner and the ensemble cast. It’s a nice, new featurette that’s not necessarily mind-blowing, but nice to have nonetheless.
- Inside the Teacher’s Lounge – An older featurette that contains interviews with director Carl Reiner, writer Jeff Franklin, and actors Mark Harmon, Ken Olandt, Patrick Labyorteaux, Dean Cameron, Robin Thomas, and Kirstie Alley.
- High School Yearbook -Another “retro” featurette that has some newer (“newer” being 2007) interviews with the cast and crew
- Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
Summer School isn’t trying to make a statement. It’s fun to watch and while the characters might be one-dimensional, I still enjoyed it after all these years. And yes, there was a time when Kirstie Alley was amazingly attractive. Shout’s new disc brings us a new feature as well as some recycled ones from past incarnations. Fans should pick this one up.