Film and TV

Mr. Shoop!: Summer School Turns 25 Years Old

This year the 1987 teen classic Summer School, starring a pre-Navy Mark Harmon and a svelte Kirstie Alley, turns 25 years old. The film, released on July 22, 1987, was directed by comedy legend Carl Reiner and written by future Full House creator Jeff Franklin. A must-see for '80s fetishists, the flick is also notable for featuring Courtney Thorne-Smith as a teen surfer girl out to get into the pants of Harmon's Mr. Freddy Shoop, an apathetic, free-spirited teacher. Tasked with getting a group of losers through a semester of summer school, he ends up changing their lives for the better. And throwing wicked parties.

Thankfully, this is also one of the few raunchy '80s romps that haven't been plundered by Hollywood for use in the 21st century, though they keep getting scarily close. The clown prince of darkness, Adam Sandler, has circled around the idea for a few years now, which makes my bowels liquefy thinking about it. If I had to have a remake of Summer School, at least they could use Bradley Cooper. Have you ever looked into his eyes?

Growing up, it always made the thought of summer school seem less like the last resort for the bad kids to graduate, and more like a party. Thankfully, I never had to find out.

The cast was a great smattering of '80s stereotypes. Horny, lovable horror buffs Chainsaw and Dave, foreign exchange student/amateur bikini model Anna-Maria, Kevin the jock, king dork Alan, the pregnant teen mom Rhonda, troubled black girl Denise and, of course, Larry, student by day and male stripper by night.

When you watch this with younger viewers, they will exclaim, "Kirstie Alley used to be hot??" as Alley's character appears on screen as Shoop's colleague, Ms. Robin Bishop. Yes, kids, that lady from the Weight Watchers ads was once a sex symbol of the highest order, eyebrows and all. She doesn't do much here but act as an easy love interest and voice of reason for Shoop.

Summer School is also one of the all-time dark-horse favorites from the plethora of teen comedies from its decade. Sure, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Weird Science get all the critical love, but give me Just One of the Guys, Adventures in Babysitting or even the darkly comic Three O'Clock High. Movies that weren't afraid to show stabbings, blood and copious nudity.

The teens in Summer School were somewhat more realistic than John Hughes's cast of thespians, too. They had rough edges, didn't philosophize out loud like Beat writers, had learning disabilities and weren't rich kids in the Chicago suburbs. They were great little character studies that resonate today.

No doubt Chainsaw and Dave would be making cheapo slasher flicks for YouTube these days, and Lord knows that teen moms are now a cottage industry, it seems.

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Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty