Paramount // 1985 // 86 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // June 1st, 2001
Hot fun in the summer time!
John Candy made about a zillion comedies during the 1980s. Some of them were great, some of them sucked. Then there's something like Summer Rental, which falls somewhere in between. Candy plays the exact same character from every other film he's done, a lovable goof who is always trying to do the right thing, often fails miserably at it, then becomes the underdog and wins the day. Directed by Carl Reiner (The Jerk, Summer School), Summer Rental washes up on DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Video.
Jack Chester (Candy) is a stressed out man. Jack's an air traffic controller who is pushed to the limit at his job. His boss finally lets him know that it might be time to take a break, especially after Jack panics while looking for a plane on his screen (which was covered up by a fly). Jack reluctantly agrees, deciding to rent out a beach house with his adoring wife Sandy (Karen Austin) and their three children (Joey Lawrence, Kerri Green, Aubrey Jene).
So, off the Chester's go for a wild and fun summer filled with beaches, bikinis, and barbequing. The house they rented couldn't be more beautiful, with a vast view of the ocean and rich neighbors. Seems like things are all in order, that is until the Chesters find out they are staying at the wrong house. Due to an address mix up, the Chesters are forced into new surroundings, which include a dumpy hut that's right next to a public beach. D'oh!
During a run-in with a local yacht snot, Al Pellet (Richard Crenna), Jack is cruelly insulted and vows to get even. He gets his chance when he decides to enter a local boat race, betting Pellet that he can beat him, which he accepts. Jack plans to knock the wind out of Pellet's sails with the help of his family, an old sea salt named Scully (the irascible Rip Torn), and a large ship by the name of "The Barnacle."
Summer Rental reeks of nostalgia. It was actually hard for me to watch Summer Rental with a reviewer's eye (though I did the best I could). Why? Because I became so sucked into the whole '80s thing. While I was watching, my mind kept drifting and thinking, "Hey, wasn't she the daughter in The Goonies?" Or, "Isn't that Joey Lawrence?" It was hard to keep my concentration focused on the film. Good, bad, it's just the way it happens sometimes.
Between the times when I was pondering the '80s, I thought that Summer Rental was a pretty cute film. It won't win any awards as a classic, and it certainly is not as funny as some of Candy's other films (for real fun, rent his funny road comedy Planes, Trains, and Automobiles). Even though it's nothing grand, Summer Rental still has that certain...jest'a montific quality about it (translation: fat guy in a bathing suit). The script and direction are nothing spectacular, but it has enough funny bits to keep you watching until the end.
Candy was always a delight to watch, and it was sad when he passed on, knowing that he had a lot more laughs in him. Summer Rental is light, fluffy entertainment that is nothing original, but that shouldn't hinder your enjoyment. Candy is so amiable and corny, you can't help but really feel for the guy. He tries so hard, and yet often never pulls though. I know how that feels, so maybe that's why I found Summer Rental to be so enjoyable.
The supporting cast in amusing, most of it coming from Rip Torn (famous for his work on "The Larry Sander's Show") as Scully. Scully is as crusty as his sea cruising ship "The Barnacle." There are some funny jabs about his steel hook, which resides where his hand used to be. He growls and grumbles his lines like a true pirate should. Kerri Green (recipient of the "What The Hell Happened To My Acting Career?" award) is effectively cute and bubbly, showing up on screen to remind Jack that his family comes first.
Summer Rental is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is the first time Summer Rental has been available in a widescreen version, and the image tends to look a bit washed out. Colors were generally bright, though reds and oranges tended to be most dominant. Blacks were solid with a hint of gray in them. Grain and dirt were often visible, though this film being as old as it is, that's not surprising. Small amount of compression was also spotted, though nothing too harsh. A mildly passable transfer from Paramount.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital Mono, and does about the best it can do given the circumstances. The track is presented dominantly from the center speaker with dialogue sounding clear. Music and effects are mixed well, and hiss is kept to a minimum.
The only extra feature included on Summer Rental is an anamorphic theatrical trailer presented in Mono as well. Though it's not a lot, in all fairness, do you really need any more?
Though Summer Rental is amusing at times, it also tends to lag in many areas. The script often tries for more cute laughs than hearty ones, making sure that this "PG" film is filled with slapstick gags that kids will find hysterical. The writers could have easily punched up the story with snappier repertoire or at least a few good zingers. The battle between Candy and Crenna never becomes very funny, basically because their dialogue isn't that interesting. More laughs and less sentimentality would have done Summer Rental good.
And where the hell is Eugene Levy when you need him?
For around 25 bucks, Summer Rental is not worth the purchase price unless you're a big John Candy fan. For a light Sunday rental, Summer Rental is enjoyable enough, though I still think Candy's best work lay ahead of him (even the critically panned Nothing But Trouble is funnier than this film). The transfer is only slightly passable, audio okay, extras non-existent.
Hung jury...it's not great, but it could have been a lot better. Now this reviewer is ready for a vacation!
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 1985
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailer