Summer School: Life's a Beach Edition – DVD Review

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Carl Reiner

Mark Harmon… Freddy Shoop
Kirstie Alley… Ms. Bishop
Courtney Thorne-Smith… Pam

Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Date: May 22, 2007

The Movie

In Summer School, Mark Harmon plays gym teacher, Mr. Shoop. A group of students, having failed a remedial English Skills exam, are forced to go to that dreaded summertime destination. When their normal teacher (Carl Reiner in a cameo) wins big on a scratch ticket, Mr. Shoop is forced to take his place.

Summer School is a rather formulaic 80’s comedy. The students are your average band of misfits and, as there are quite a few of them, most of them only get one or two defining characteristics to carry them throughout the film (Chainsaw and Dave like horror movies; Pam has a thing for Mr. Shoop; Rhonda is pregnant, etc). There’s also Kirstie Alley as Mr. Shoop’s love interest, Ms. Bishop, and Robin Thomas as Vice Principal Gills to act as the antagonist.

Even though there are a lot of characters, they all get at least some sort of plot arc to work through. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. On the one hand, it makes the shallow characters more interesting as at least they do change a little bit throughout the story. On the other hand, it means that none of the subplots feel particularly meaty. Even the romantic subplot between Harmon and Alley isn’t given that much attention; it’s one of the major plot points introduced early in the movie, and then it wraps up during the final scene. Minimal conversations in the second act help to prolong the relationship subplot.

Of course, given that Summer School is a comedy, the movie can get away with having a weak plot provided it is still funny. In that department, Summer School is mostly successful. There aren’t that many hysterical moments but the comedy maintains a light chuckle level. As a result, even though there aren’t a lot of stand-out hilarious moments, the movie keeps you solidly entertained for the duration.

There’s a sweetness to it as well. A number of positive messages are conveyed about a variety of issues. This could have easily come off as preachy, but fortunately, the film always manages to stay just irreverent enough to avoid that. The end result is a movie that has a good heart, without getting too sweet and syrupy. A lot of the characters benefit from this touch of sweetness; without it, many of the students would have come off as obnoxious and/or annoying.

On a side note, the movie seems a bit vulgar for its PG-13 rating. There’s some casual profanity from time to time in a few gory scenes (the gore is fake gore done by some of the students, but it’s fairly convincing gore nevertheless). I suppose there’s not really enough to earn it a restricted rating, though. Were the movie being rated in Canada, I’d probably expect it to get a 14A, but when your only choices are PG-13 and R, PG-13 is probably the better fit.

Summer School is a fun 80’s movie. Sure, it’s filled with cliches. And it’s not going to make you think, or change your life in any way, but it is a fun way to spend an hour and a half.

The Video

Presented in 16:9. The video is actually pretty good for a movie that’s twenty years old. There’s a bit of dirt from time to time, but on the whole, it’s a solid transfer.

The Audio

Presented in English 5.1 Surround. The audio is fine. There nothing sensational on this front (there’s really no place in the movie for the audio to be particularly impressive), but there are no problems either.

The Extras

Commentary with Carl Reiner and Mark Harmon
A fairly entertaining commentary. When it comes to little details, Carl doesn’t seem to remember nearly as much about the movie as Mark does (he blames this on his age), but they’ve both got some interesting bits of information to share. Throughout the commentary you get a sense that both men have fond memories of making the movie (they say as much, but people say that in virtually every commentary. In this case, given the way they talk throughout the whole film, it seems to be genuine).

Inside the Teacher’s Lounge
A piece on the movie, in general, and the faculty characters. There are some present day interviews with Carl Reiner, Jeff Franklin, Mark Harmon and some of the other cast members mixed in with on-set footage, movie clips and interviews. This runs about 14 minutes.

Summer School Yearbook
Same idea as Inside the Teacher’s Lounge but focused on each of the students in the class. Features the same people giving interviews as the previous piece and runs about ten minutes.

Theatrical Trailer

Photo Gallery

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Summer School
(OUT OF 10)