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Home » Culture and Criticism

One Crazy Summer

Submitted by on June 5, 2008 – 9:19 AM30 Comments

The Couch Baron is back with today's summer-movie offering…and he's not happy about it. Bad acting, contrivance, a series of cutesy nicknames, and a boat race all add up to One Crazy Summer.

Dude, I don't even know what to say about this one. Okay, I'll try, but if I get some details wrong, don't bother telling me, because I don't care and it really doesn't matter. I mean, that big fake dolphin alone!

So, "Hoops" (John Cusack), despite his declaration that he doesn't want to be a "party monkey" (?), gets dragged to Nantucket for the summer by his idiot friend George (Joel Murray, who's currently playing Freddy Rumsen over on Mad Men). On the way, they rescue big-haired "musician" Cassandra (Demi Moore) from a biker gang.

Hoops is so called apparently because he's great at basketball, except then he isn't, but then he is. …No idea. Also, he wants to go to art school, which he demonstrates by drawing (there's a lot of sad animation scattered throughout the film) a continuing story about a hapless rhinoceros, a blind Cupid, and several mean and alcoholic fuzzy rabbits. Again, no idea.

Once on Nantucket, Hoops and George form a gang of unlikable misfits with functionally retarded "twins" Egg (Bobcat Goldthwait) and Clay (Tom Villard) and other friend Ack Ack (over-30-at-the-time Curtis Armstrong, who you'll remember as Booger from Revenge Of The Nerds, so named here because of his military father. You see, "Ack Ack" sounds like a machine gun. Get it? Me neither) to help Cassandra rescue a house (inherited from her grandfather) and its underprivileged occupants from the clutches of evil developer Aquilla Beckersted (Mark Metcalf, whom Buffy fans will know as The Master and, in a far more amusing coincidence that anything in this movie, was also The Maestro on Seinfeld), who wants to take time from his busy mustache-twirling and dog-kicking schedule (I'm not kidding; he actually kicks a dog) to turn the place into a chain lobster restaurant.

Also in Hoops and Co.'s way are Metcalf's son Teddy (Matt Mulhern), who's the typical bully who needs Daddy's approval, and his gang of goons, including Ty (Jeremy Piven), who may still have his own hair here in 1986 but nevertheless looks miles out of high school. (Piven has worked with Cusack many times since, which doesn't do a whole lot for my opinion of him.) After Cassandra enterprisingly uses Mace to save Hoops from getting his ass kicked, he repays her by heavily promoting her upcoming local gig, thus enabling her to raise the astronomical amount of back mortgage money she needs to keep the house (three grand!).

But when Beckersted dubiously beats Cassandra to the bank, it's left to the misfits to win a regatta (there had to be one, didn't there?) against all odds, including Hoops's fear of boats, which convinces Beckersted's dad (William Hickey), who really wears the pants in the family, to give the house back to Cassandra. You guys, I'm reading what I wrote and not believing it. Did this movie really happen?

Coming Of Age/Fast-Burning Summer Romance: The two are intertwined in this film, as Hoops's problem with drawing the "illustrative love story" that is his art-school-scholarship assignment is that, according to him, he's never been in love. (By the way, at his graduation, he tells us the assignment is due in two weeks, yet the movie ends well into August and he still hasn't turned it in, like, nice timeline, movie.) But how can you not fall in love with spunky Cassandra, who crosses gender stereotypes by helping the boys build a boat, and encourages us with incisive lyrics like "Don't Look Back"? (Seriously, there's almost nothing more to the performed-by-Demi-Moore song than those three words, repeated a hundred times on the same notes, and that's what the crowd at her gig goes completely apeshit over. Also, Cassandra manages to obtain shiny new equipment and a full band and backup singers to play with her, as always happens to broke-ass musicians, and Hoops is in charge of collecting money at the door. Given how much cash she pulled in, I bet the management regrets apparently giving up their cut, but at least they know not to look back!) Hoops's last resistance is broken down when he confesses his fear of boats, and Cassandra counters with this: "Maybe you just haven't had the right kind of experience on a boat." Filming this movie can't have helped.

Enviable Vacation Locale: Hey, it's Nantucket — beach, sailing, and seafood in abundance, and even a drive-in movie theater! However, the appeal of all these things is somewhat diminished by the fact that the entire population seems to be socially retarded in one way or another. Even poor Billie Bird is completely unlikable! Who knew that was even possible after Sixteen Candles?

Quality Of Beach/Summer Fashions: Hoops wears some pretty short shorts in the film, and it's not like I have anything particularly against John Cusack's legs, unlike the rest of him, but didn't Ocean Pacific make longer offerings even back then? Other than that, the standard assortment of eighties beachwear and hairdos are on display, except, of course, when it comes to rebel Cassandra, who refuses to ditch her heavy leather jacket or to conform to any local norms when it comes to her hair. As Teddy notes about her style, "She wears, like, these braids. What do they call them, cornhusks?" Sure. We'll go with that.

"Humor": At one point, Egg gets himself stuck in a Godzilla costume, goes to spy on Teddy at a party announcing more development projects of Teddy's dad's, gets a lit cigar pitched into his mouth (good thing it didn't go into the azaleas!) and freaks, running around stomping on a model city with smoke coming out of the Godzilla jaws. It wasn't worth the time it took to type that, much less to film it. Worse still are the presence of several running gags: two girls who make faces and, to the delight of grandmothers everywhere but no one else, get them stuck that way; George being trapped under a chair (yes, more than once) and getting farted on by a portly beachgoer, causing two paramedics later to argue over who has to give him mouth-to-mouth; numerous jokes about how people find it hard to believe that Egg and Clay are twins, even though they don't even seem like they belong to the same species (neither of those species being sapien). I feel kind of bad completely harshing on Villard, because he's actually got some comic talent, and also is dead. But I guess the second part means he probably won't mind.

Really, though, the only actual humor comes unintentionally, such as when George successfully jumps his car onto a departing ferry even though the lead-up shots made it clear he would have had a better chance of making it across the Grand Canyon, or when Teddy and his girlfriend Cookie (yeah, I know) get bitten by the most incredibly fake-looking lobsters you've ever seen. My guess is that all the real lobsters read the script and refused to sign the performance agreement, but that just makes me wonder why the people involved didn't do the same. I'll never understand actors.

Worth The A/C?: Not even on, like, Tatooine. Cusack may be the world's biggest douche, but he did some fun teen movies. This is not one of them.

Overall Suitability As A Summer Movie: D

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  • Tisha_ says:

    I agree that this movie was/is stupid. But, it's still a good memory from my childhood.

  • Lisa says:

    Mark Metcalf from Buffy?! or Seinfeld?! He's Neidermeyer! /runs away weeping for Botox to cure my oldness

  • Margaret in CO says:

    I've actually watched this pile of film, and the Couch Baron must have paid a lot more attention to it, because all these plot lines? Never saw 'em.

    Thanks for takin' one for the team, CB. Now I'll never ever have the urge to re-watch it, all "What was that about again?" I appreciate the sacrifice you made to save us all.

  • Jane says:

    Yes! One Crazy Summer! Dear God, what a movie. Another Savage Steve Holland production. I went through a phase where I had to watch everything John Cusack was in. Hey, it was still better than Max! This summary totally cracked me up because it's so right on, and yet I can't help but kind of love the movie (just a little bit). George as pretty much the straight man is the best part.

    Wait, doesn't this movie have the bit with the crazy guy and the radio contest? And then at the end he almost wins and then doesn't and then in retaliation blows the station to heck? Awesomeness.

    I think this is one of those movies I watch for the combined 5 minutes of totally random kind of funny stuff, and the rest is crap but it's part of the movie so I watch it anyways.

    Speaking of climactic regattas, Summer Rental better be on the list!

  • Jennifer says:

    Not sure if CB made it through to the credits, but the closing song, "If I Could Grow Wings," is for me the quintessential bad 80s soundtrack song, featuring (at least) THREE key changes on the endlessly repeating chorus.

  • Cindi in CO says:

    "Speaking of climactic regattas, Summer Rental better be on the list!"

    Oh, SO much love for Summer Rental and John Candy! Please, please be on the list.

  • dimestore lipstick says:

    Armstrong and Villard were almost exactly the same age, born about a week apart. While Goldthwait, who played Villard's twin, was actually nine years younger.

    So. Two 32-year-old teens, and twins not actually born in the same decade. Hard to believe the casting directors have multiple award noms and wins to their credit.

    Did The Couch Baron get to see the famous revenge animation, where Savage Steve Holland animated two exploding bunnies that look like Siskel & Ebert?

  • I'm not sure about the timeline here, but I always assumed that this was filmed shortly after "Better Off Dead" to capitalize on its awesomeness ("Two dollars!"). It's a lot of the same actors, similar high-school-angsty drama, and that same cartoon bit.

  • Tisha_ says:

    First of all, @Jane, yes… the crazy uncle and the radio contest is one of my favorite parts of this movie.

    Also, I really hope Summer Rental makes it to the list too. Along with Summer School.

  • Vanessa says:

    Re: Ocean Pacific shorts…no, they were not made any longer than that, and I have the pictures to prove it.

    I can't even file this movie under "awesomely bad," although at the time, those kids with the faces that froze cracked my shit up.

  • Jen S says:

    Ahhh, the Cute & Fuzzy Bunnies…the only thing I remember about this film, other than thinking John Cusak was terrifyingly pale for being in a summer movie. You could ski down him, almost.

  • Julie says:

    I keep getting this one mixed up with "Better Off Dead," because of Cusack and Armstrong, but "Dead" is so, so much funnier.

  • Natalie says:

    Hmmm, I remember really liking this film, though I'm having trouble at this moments separating it from some others.

    This is the one where the little girl has an ugly dog in a neck… thing and gets her face stuck making an ugly expression, yes?

  • EB says:

    I had a recollection of liking this movie when I saw it on "Dollar night" at the theater in high school, so when I ran across it on TV last year, I was kind of psyched because I hadn't seen it since it came out in '86 or '87ish. Egad, did it not hold up to my most-likely-stoned memories.

  • ebeth says:

    I actually saw this movie when they were testing it with audiences and it was called Greetings from Nantucket. I just remember all of us writing on the notes that we hated the name. We didn't even want to go to the screening because of the name. Why wasn't I more bothered by the crap content? Ah, young teens…

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Natalie: If I recall correctly, the little girls whose faces get stuck are in the act of making fun of said dog when the dog's owner, who is Demi Moore's cousin maybe?, whaps them on the backs and their faces stick.

  • Sandman says:

    "On the way, they rescue big-haired 'musician' Cassandra (Demi Moore) from a biker gang."

    There's so much wrong with this sentence, it ought to have been enough all by itself to kill this movie at the pitch stage. And yet, sadly, it was not. Bravely done, CB.

  • Dabney says:

    [i]who is Demi Moore's cousin maybe?,[/i]

    Nope. She is the little sister of George. Demi is not related to them in the movie. She is love interest for Hoops.

  • Amy says:

    Better Off Dead was a way better Cusack flick, summer or not.

  • Jaybird says:

    Dog's name was Bosco. I will now hang my head in shame for even knowing that. And also: What Amy said. "Better Off Dead" was a LOT better than OCS, if only because it contained no Bob[cat] Goldthwait, who is essentially a bipedal hemorrhoid.

  • Couch Baron says:

    Thanks, you guys! And as you indicated, there's much more I could have talked about — the crazy guy and the radio contest is one example, as well as the cone dog and her cone puppies and the regatta shenanigans — but there was only so much I could take.

    Dimestore Lipstick: I did not see that, but if the animation was of the same quality as in the movie, I kind of doubt Siskel and Ebert lost much sleep over it. Heh.

    Jennifer: I did not catch the song, so glad I was to get to the end. Wow. Sounds awesome.

    And I loved Better Off Dead too! Although now I'm kind of afraid to watch it again…

  • Couch Baron says:

    Oh, and I forgot to add that I've had "Don't Look Back" stuck in my head for a week. Stupid movie.

  • Kim says:

    "If I could grow WINGS, I would do any THING, da dah DAAAH dah da.
    If I could fly HIGH like the blah from the SKY, I would do doo dooo
    What DOES! IT! TAKE?"

    Yes, I just did that from memory. Shocking, I know. And now that song will be stuck in my head all day. That ranked right up there with "Man in Motion" from St. Elmo's Fire and that song from American Anthem (what? you never saw that? with Janet Jones and Mitch GAYLORD?) as '80s movie themes that I listened to way too many times and then completely forgot about.

  • RJ says:

    I taped this for my sister off TV once, because she was (and, god help us, still is) a John Cusack fan.

    She made me tape over it.

  • Mary says:

    What, no love for the Giant Dolphin with Rabies?

    Seriously, this could very well be the worst film ever made, and yet my love for it knows no bounds. This is what happens when you watch a movie at least 4 times a year from ages 8-13.

  • sex shop says:

    I'm not sure about the timeline here, but I always assumed that this was filmed shortly after "Better Off Dead" to capitalize on its awesomeness ("Two dollars!"). It's a lot of the same actors, similar high-school-angsty drama, and that same cartoon bit.

  • Meredith says:

    I admit I love this movie. It's just so random.

    Weird sidenote: Steve Holland ended up creating "Lizzie McGuire" and writes and directs a bunch of kids tv these days.

  • Robert says:

    I wouldn't debate a single opinion here about the cinematic merits of OCS, but god do I love it still. My friend dragged me to this for my first outing after the death of my mom, and I laughed so hard and so gratefully at lines like "What's this word?" "Your last name."
    "Were you that little fat boy, Egg?" "No, but I use to beat the shit out of him! I'd say 'Why are you so fat?!"

    etc, etc. For me and for the time in my life that I saw it, OCS will always rock, despite every eye-rolling minute (surprised no one mentioned how the light post orb somehow morphs into an actual basketball). Plus, the uncle's descent into radio-inspired madness was hillarious.

    Rock on, Hoops.

  • Ian says:

    This movie is a classic. Sure, it was dumb, but how many really GOOD movies came out of the 80's? Your review was spot on and had me rolling though lol. This movie ranks with me right up there with "Summer School". Instead of Hoops, it was Shoop.

  • Jothos says:

    ok, anyone who doesn't like this movie, obviously didn't grow up with it, or with the general silliness of most 80's movies. it is a great memorable movie. fuck all of you who don't agree, and i hope youget aids. :)

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