- May 8, 2000
Length: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English Restored Mono, English Dolby Digital 5.1 remix, French Mono
Special Features: none
Release Date: June 1, 2004
I’m a fan of Carl Reiner’s early work. His comedy routines with Mel Brooks are unparalleled. And, The Dick Van Dyke Show is my favorite TV sitcom of all time. Then, although it wasn’t his first film, Reiner’s respectability in the motion picture arena really took off with 1977’s Oh, God!
1979 saw the first of his collaborations with Steve Martin. These collaborative efforts would include The Jerk, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, The Man with Two Brains and All of Me.
Unfortunately, All of Me (1984) was the last Carl Reiner film which I really enjoyed. After that, his films became stale retreads of many comedy genre films which preceded them. Reiner tried to change with the times when, ironically, his old-fashioned style is what made him entertaining.
Summer School (1987) is a few years past Reiner’s prime. Here, he presents us with his first teen comedy. Mark Harmon is Mr. Shoop, a gym teacher turned summer school remedial english teacher against his will, in order to teach a bunch of ne’er-do well kids enough to pass an english test. It’s a by-the-numbers comedy with a respectable performance from Harmon. Kirstie Alley is his “love interest” in a love story that isn’t interesting. Then there are the kids. This is, after all, a teen comedy.
The kids are all cast from caricature molds, and none of them do anything unexpected. Fast Times this is not. Comedy relief is provided by two class clowns, Chainsaw and Dave - two film fanatics who think The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the best thing that ever happened to celluloid. The two are constantly comparing the world around them with their favorite horror films, and rating events around them with a thumbs up or thumbs down. It was funny the first and second time...
Of course, in the end, the teacher learns something about himself, and the kids learn a little bit of english. And, the viewer has spent 97 minutes witnessing these events - so he can promptly forget them. This isn’t the type of film that makes a lasting impression.
Summer School isn’t a bad film, but it offers nothing new in the teen-comedy arena. We have so many cookie cutter characters in the students - the jock, the nerd, the class clown, etc. Then we have the by-the-numbers love story subplot which plays out according to the formula playbook.
Nobody forgets Fast Times at Ridgemont High, or even American Pie. Those films stick with you, for good or bad. Summer School takes no risks, and is ultimately forgettable.
Summer School is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and it is enhanced for widescreen televisions.
The most notable feature of the image is the moderate amount of grain, visible throughout the film - but more pronounced in some scenes, especially darker ones. This, in conjunction with high contrast and strong saturation give the film a somewhat “harsh” appearance.
The transfer features strong black levels with fair to good detail in the shadows. The image is sharp, with no noticeable edge enhancement - and the print is fairly clean, with only an occasional speck of dust.
The restored mono track has good frequency range with no hiss. The 5.1 track improves bass response considerably, and opens up the music across the front soundstage. The mix is front-heavy, offering up only some ambient noise in the rear channels. The remix presents a slightly “hollow” sound to dialog at times, but the improved bass response in the music may cause some to prefer this track over the mono track. I give the mono track a slight edge in fidelity.
There are no special features.
Paramount delivers an adequate transfer of a formula teen comedy in this release of Summer School on DVD.