The first in a trilogy of reviews looking at 80s comedy films that set-up ultimate disaster for their hapless characters. The year is 1985 and John Candy is going on vacation in Carl Reiner’s Summer Rental. Daniel Stephens reviews.
Summer Rental marks one of John Candy’s earliest leading roles after supporting parts in National Lampoon’s Vacation, Stripes and Splash, making the film shortly after starring alongside Richard Pryor in Brewster’s Millions. The film certainly knows it’s a Candy vehicle as director Carl Reiner makes sure the attention is always on the comedy actor, and the script by Jeremy Stevens who worked on Saturday Night Live with Candy, caters for the actor’s strengths. The premise is perfect for Candy: bumbling family man goes on vacation and nothing seems to go right, and he makes the film work, keeping the laughs consistently coming via his energetic, colourful performance. Like the majority of his films you can’t quite imagine anyone else playing the part, and Summer Rental is no exception – a warm, entertaining vehicle for his singular talent.
When Jack Chester (Candy) starts to see the strains of working long hours in the control tower of a major airport begin to take a toll on his work, his boss tells him he needs a break. Gathering the family they set off for the coast hoping for a relaxing vacation but there’s no chance of that. On their first night out they find themselves cueing for ages waiting to get a table at one of the town’s swanky restaurants but Jack is troubled when town rich-man Al Pellet (Richard Crenna) jumps the cue and gets the last lobster sitting in the tank. Jack confronts Pellet and the pair argue in front of the whole restaurant before he decides to leave knowing he can’t compete with this well-respected but egotistical member of the local community. This however, is just the first run-in with him and soon enough Pellet is threatening to drive Jack out of town. But, with the town’s annual boat race quickly approaching they make a bet but Jack has just one problem: he doesn’t have a boat.
Summer Rental is certainly a film that justifies its title, encompassing the very niceties that make up the summer months and perfectly bringing the joy of the holidays to the screen. Director Reiner uses the sunny climate to drench the photography in the golden haze of the sun giving the film a hot summer’s day feel throughout. Much like Planes, Trains And Automobiles made the wintry conditions of Thanksgiving a joy to be in, Summer Rental reminds of perfect family vacations, cold drinks in front of a calm sea, and fun times away from the monotonous daily chores of work at home. It’s commendable on Reiner’s part that even though he isn’t working with material of the quality he enjoyed with Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid and the fantastic The Man With Two Brains, he isn’t heavy-handed and makes the best of the simplistic story. The result is a film that celebrates family life without taxing the brain, full of the warmth and childish fun of the holiday season.
But this is very much a John Candy film and he is excellent in the lead role. His big-hearted husband from Planes, Trains And Automobiles and the energy of his Peace Corp buddy in Volunteers make up his character here, and he’s great to watch. His shocked reply to a woman showing him her breast implants is very funny, but when people start to use his beach house as a free-for-all and his sunburned, boredom turns to fabulous rage he’s at his manic, physical best. The ‘Smurfs’ one-liner to an overweight freeloader drinking and smoking in his bed is the best of the film, while he turns some mediocre sarcasm into dry, perfectly timed laughs. He’s ably supported by Rip Torn as Scully, the restaurant owner, while Crenna is a decent cartoon-style bad guy.
Summer Rental is a product of what the eighties did best – cheesy and silly it is, escapist and feel-good, most definitely. While the script isn’t very good and Carl Reiner clearly knows he isn’t making another comedy masterpiece like some of his other work, at times allowing for too much sugary-sentiment, and the plot is join-the-dots and very predictable, the film is nothing short of entertaining. John Candy is great in the lead role and the film’s sunny outlook and summer setting will leave very few without a smile on their faces come the closing credits.
The image is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and anamorphic enhanced. Overall, the picture is very good for a film made in 1985 but it could have been better. Colours are excellent and darker scenes look fine on the DVD, but the print is a little soft and there is some noticeable grain and artefacts visible.
The English Mono soundtrack also does a perfectly adequate job not really needing the surround speakers to add ambience to the film. Dialogue is clear but the lack of separation tends to leave the sound feeling muffled at times.
Theatrical Trailer – The only extra feature on the DVD is a theatrical trailer.
An enjoyable, funny, heart-warming John Candy film gets the bare-bones treatment from Paramount but the anamorphic widescreen is a big plus.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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