Sunday, January 16, 2011

Film Review: ONE CRAZY SUMMER (1986, Savage Steve Holland)

Stars: 3 of 5.
Running Time: 93 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: John Cusack (BETTER OFF DEAD, SAY ANYTHING), Demi Moore (ABOUT LAST NIGHT, STRIPTEASE), Joel Murray (SHAKES THE CLOWN, HATCHET), William Hickey (TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE, PRIZZI'S HONOR), Bobcat Goldthwait (SHAKES THE CLOWN, POLICE ACADEMY 2), Curtis Armstrong (BETTER OFF DEAD, QUIGLEY, RISKY BUSINESS), Bruce Wagner (co-writer of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3 and SCENES FROM THE CLASS STRUGGLE IN BEVERLY HILLS), Taylor Negron (THE LAST BOY SCOUT, STUART LITTLE), John Matuszak (THE GOONIES, THE ICE PIRATES, CAVEMAN), Donald Li (BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN).
Tag-line: "They're out of school, out on Nantucket, and out of their minds. With this crowd, anything can happen!"
Best one-liner: "Oh, thank you, I think I will have some cookies-aehah!" (said by Bobcat Goldthwait).

Though I am somewhat unnerved by the terrible, tooth-clenching grimace which pulls taut the hideous, ruddy skin of the summer sun's face as depicted on ONE CRAZY SUMMER's one-sheet, I shall suck it up and attempt to soberly discuss the film on this chilly January evening. (Why does the sun have to wear SUNglasses?) For better or for worse, ONE CRAZY SUMMER certainly bears the whacky stamp of its creator: the 'auteur' Savage Steve Holland, who was the brains behind such irreverent flickery as BETTER OFF DEAD and HOW I GOT INTO COLLEGE.

This is the story of aspiring cartoonist Hoops Mcann (John Cusack) and his eponymous one crazy (Nantucket) summer. That's pretty much all you need to know. You'll laugh, you'll cry... you'll wince. This is Savage Steve Holland's style. He throws everything at you (including the kitchen sink) in the hopes that something will stick. That something will strike your funny bone. A lot of it will miss, oh God, so much of it will miss- but, whether by chance, by sheer persistence, or by simply grinding me down into delirious oblivion, he earned himself a few bulls-eyes. And those bulls-eyes, clichéd as they may be, are what I shall discuss.

ONE CRAZY SUMMER abides by many of the unwritten rules and regulations of 1980's cinema. I have no idea if it was from some anonymous cigar-smoke filled room that these filmic laws were handed down, but somebody, somewhere decreed that a certain quota of these had to be fulfilled, and ONE CRAZY SUMMER, like so many others, was ready and willing to comply.

#1. Villainous vanity plates. Sometimes heroes get vanity plates (Stallone's AWESOM50 in COBRA, for one), but villains just got to have 'em.


#2. The 80's rule of pools. If A., a swimming pool exists, then B., someone fully clothed must be pushed into it, arms flailing. If condition A. is not met and condition C., the presence of a cake, is, then again undertake result B.

KER-SPLOOSH

#3. If the criteria and conditions for a "makeover" or "shopping" montage do not exist, then a "fix-'em-up" montage must take their place, and the duration must be uncomfortably long.

Note Demi Moore's stylin' pants (foreground).

#4. If a role demands the an expertise that only Clint Howard can deliver, yet he's just a little too old to pull off the role, then Curtis Armstrong must be cast in his stead.
http://www.wearysloth.com/Gallery/ActorsA/545.gif

#5. If A., Bobcat Goldthwait is available, B. this is not a POLICE ACADEMY film, and C., ...uh, aw, fuck it, just let him do that voice-thing, that growl, you know what talking about. The high-pitched, wailing-growl thing. AeeeEEEEehaAAAAaa. Yeah, that.


#6. Something about Mark Metcalf and crazy-eye and a 'stache and lobsters and 80's rich kid villains having even more villainous fathers. I can't remember the rest of this law, but I know Metcalf's 'lobster-hating-lobster-restauranteur' somehow is the logical response to Charles Durning's 'frog-hating-frog-leg-restauranteur' in THE MUPPET MOVIE. And if that wasn't enough, they make him a land developer, too. I think he maybe wandered away from the set of a Golan-Globus flick? He easily could've done the Ed Lauter role in DEATH WISH 3 or the John P. Ryan role in RUNAWAY TRAIN or even the Christopher George role in ENTER THE NINJA, but I digress.



#7. If there's one Asian guy hanging around (this time it's Donald Li from BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA), and it doesn't look like he has too big a part, then he's going to be the payoff of some joke involving nerdiness, Ping-Pong, Godzilla, or some such nonsense.


To be fair, this gag (involving Bobcat Goldthwait in a Godzilla costume running wild all over the aforementioned real-estate developer's scale model at a banquet designed to impress Asian investors) is pretty inspired, and one which was recycled in a third-season episode of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT.

#8. Somebody's gotta be in a band. It doesn't matter who. How about Demi Moore? Yeah, okay, Demi Moore will be in a band.



#9. And just every 80's movie must introduce me to a new hero. Or reintroduce to me to an old one. Here, we've got John Matuszak, ex-NFLer, two time Super Bowl winner, 9th place in the 1978 World's Strongest Man competition, the man behind the makeup as 'Sloth' in the GOONIES, 'Tonda' in CAVEMAN, 'Killjoy' in THE ICE PIRATES, and author of an autobiography entitled CRUISIN' WITH THE 'TOOZ!
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2206/2443228498_64befca194.jpg
I guess it took his role as 'Stain' in ONE CRAZY SUMMER to make me realize that all these great and disparate achievements belonged to a single man. So you can imagine the cruel blow dealt to my burgeoning fandom when I realized that he died of heart failure at the age of 38 (in 1989).

I submit the following images as a testament to his two-minute role as 'Stain,' which is certainly the highlight of ONE CRAZY SUMMER's parade of zaniness. 'Stain' is a purple-spiked-hair motorcycle punk whose entire character is based on the fact that he is a big, big man who loves him some money but hates getting dunked in water. They don't make 'em like this anymore. And when they do, they're always missing the charm and inspired casting choices typified here by Mr. Matuszak:






R.I.P., Tooz.

-Sean Gill

3 comments:

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Sean

Thanks for the look back at one of the John Cusack/ Savage Steve Holland classics. This is pure cinema genius quite frankly.

As you suggest with the Godzilla scene, the whole thing is ludicrous but somehow works beautifully. How these films got made is quite frankly a miracle.

I rank my fave 80s cheese films like this: Better Off Dead, One Crazy Summer, The Sure Thing and to a small degree Hot Pursuit. Just absolutely amazing stuff. Great, fun films.

They don't make them like this anymore. To some degree, athough to a much greater degree - better written- Say Anything was like Cusack's one last attempt at those kinds of films.

I loved your point about Clint Howard not being right for the part. Are those two actors not cut from the same mold? Excellent.

Anyway, crazy wacky film with loads of goofy good parts and that classic Level 42 track Lessons In Love to close out the film. Even using Honeymoon Suite's What Does It Take was inspired 80s rock for this classic.

Thanks for choosing One Crazy Summer and the look back! Brilliant.

J.D. said...

Love me some Level 42. Wow, I haven't thought about them in ages. Like Sade, hearing their music instantly transports me back to the 1980s.

This is one bizarro film and what is even more fascinating is the falling out between Cusack and Holland which has been documented on various places on the Internet. Which also makes me wonder what exactly went down between Cusack and Jeremy Piven and why they're no longer BFF?

Sean Gill said...

Sci-Fi,

So glad you appreciated the review! I guess we're lucky that enough of these high-energy, silly 80's flicks exist that I can always pop one in when the mood strikes, but it is kind of depressing that contemporary films of this genre generally feel so plastic and overproduced. Ah, well.

J.D.,
I had not heard about the Cusack/Holland 'breakup,' and it made for some pretty fascinating reading. I can't really comprehend his turnaround on BETTER OFF DEAD, as if the film's inherent absurdity somehow came as a surprise at the screening?! Wow.