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Summer School (SE)
DVD disk
May 14, 2007 By: Scott Weinberg
Summer School (SE) order
Director:
Carl Reiner

Actors:
Mark Harmon
Kirstie Alley
Dean Cameron

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
It's about a bunch of kids in summer school. And a teacher who's more childish than the lot of 'em.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Ah, sweet simplistic formula. When done well, even the simplest of stories can make for a pretty fun movie. Such is quite definitely the case with Carl Reiner's SUMMER SCHOOL, which is a movie in sort of the same way that a birthday card is a magazine. The flick is lightweight, paper-thin, adorably airheaded, so transparent you can almost see through it -- but damn if it's not packed with a few really funny performances, a refreshingly breezy tone, and just enough laughs to make it worth the 95 minutes.

Plus it's a perfect encapsulation of the goofball year that was 1987.

Mark Harmon, in a role that seems tailor-made for Bill Murray, underplays quite nicely and has no problem at all creating a goofball teacher character that we like almost instantly. Other standouts include an icy Kirstie Alley (as if there's any other kind), Dean Cameron as the horror geek "Chainsaw," and Robin Thomas as the typically officious jerk of the piece.

It's a full-bore piece of cinematic cotton candy, but there's a good reason why many people of "my" generation hear the title SUMMER SCHOOL and are forced to stifle a little smile. The screenplay is little more than a few clever gags surrounded by typical plot conventions and one-note characters, but the secret weapon in this one is director Carl Reiner. (See what happens when you get a veteran to direct one of these little piffle comedies instead of just hiring the cheapest first-timer available?) Even when SUMMER SCHOOL gets a little topical and sappy, and it definitely does, Reiner keeps everything moving while letting Harmon do the heavy lifting as his young co-stars sprinkle the chuckles around.

Fun, fluffy stuff, period. And don't forget to keep an ear out for a very early, very plucky, and VERY '80s musical score from Danny Elfman!

THE EXTRAS
Fans of the flick (and yes, there are lots of us) may enjoy the feature-length audio commentary with director Reiner and leading man Harmon. There's a lot of that "oh, s/he was great" and "oh, we loved this bit," but the pair also exhibit a sincere sense of affection for the flick -- and one another. Mostly a love-fest, but not a bad track, really.

The 14-minute "Inside the Teacher's Lounge" features a bunch of recent interviews with Reiner, Harmon, screenwriter Jeff Franklin, and a whole lot of the (now grown-up) teenagers. "Summer School Yearbook" (11m) focuses more on each of the kids. Both featurettes are really quite good, packed as they are with warm memories, amusing clips, and a bunch of archival on-set footage.

Rounding out the disc: the original theatrical trailer and a photo gallery.

FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Once again Paramount treats one of their "little" old hits like a fine film and gives the fans what they want: a beloved, albeit very fluffy, old comedy next to some fine supplemental features.

Plus Chainsaw STILL makes me laugh.

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