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Film / Summer School

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Summer School is a 1987 comedy film about, well, summer school.

Mark Harmon stars as Freddy Shoop, a slacker high school Phys Ed teacher who's prepared to spend his summer vacation in Hawaii... that is, until the school administration forces him to teach a class in remedial English or lose his tenure. When Shoop discovers the students have no more interest in the class than he does, he strikes a bargain with them. Hilarity Ensues.

Best known nowadays for its young cast, many of whom went on to bigger roles, including Kirstie Alley, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Patrick Labyorteaux, Kelly Jo Minter, and Shawnee Smith. The film was directed by Carl Reiner, written by Jeff Franklin (Full House), and features an original score by Danny Elfman.

Interestingly, this film was cited by a group of interviewees in the 2014 documentary Why Horror?, who credited their careers in makeup F/X to having been inspired by the gory prank Chainsaw and Dave pull on a substitute teacher.

Not to be mistaken for the indie anthology film of the same name.

Some tropes associated with the film include:

  • Actor Allusion: Shoop puts on a football uniform to help Kevin practice. The powder blue jersey and gold helmet is the same color scheme as UCLA where Harmon played quarterback.
  • Ambiguously Absent Parent: Pam talks about sharing a house with her brother and his wife and kids and her brother and sister-in-law attend the parent-teacher conference at the end, implying Pam's parents aren't in the picture or are busy somewhere.
  • Apathetic Teacher: Shoop, a PE teacher who took a job in order to have summers off.
  • Asleep in Class: Larry nods off repeatedly at his desk. It's later revealed that he's been working long nights as a stripper for a ladies' nightclub. Once he's fired he starts actually remaining conscious, albeit randy, in class.
  • Big Bad: Vice Principal Gillis, of the non-villainous, Jerkass Has a Point type common to high school movies in The '80s. Sure, it's a disappointment that Shoop can't go on vacation, but all the Jerkass really wants Shoop to do is what he's supposed to do, and that's teach a class.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Subverted in a cute way when the dog joins in.
  • Big "NO!": Chainsaw delivers one just before the class is supposed to take the all-important end-of-term exam.
    Chainsaw: Tension breaker. Had to be done.
    Mr. Shoop: Anyone else?
  • Bittersweet Ending: Not all of the kids pass their final exam, meaning some will be held back, but they all show great improvement and a willingness to continue trying their hardest. It also helps save Mr. Shoop's job and grants him tenure.
  • Book Dumb: All the kids in Remedial English, who have varying reasons to be there.
  • Brick Joke: On the first day of summer school, Jerome asks to be excused to go to bathroom. He disappears from the movie. Six weeks later, he comes back for finals and gets highest marks in the class.
    Shoop: Where have you been all summer?
    Jerome: Bathroom.
  • Cool Teacher: Shoop is maybe a little too cool at times, but enforced in that he's just the gym teacher who was forced to teach remedial English or lose his job.
  • Creator Cameo: Director Carl Reiner as the teacher who wins a lottery and quits, leaving the school in the lurch and Shoop on the hook.
  • Foreign Exchange Student: Beautiful Anna-Maria, from Italy.
  • Genre Deconstruction: In the end, not all of the students pass. Even though they all buckled down in the end, it was too little, too late for some of them. That said, they've all gained a new appreciation for academic achievement.
  • Golden Snitch: The students' performance on their final exam is evidently the only factor determining whether they pass or fail, with none of their homework or previous tests and quizzes meaning squat. (Case in point: the guy who spent the whole summer term "in the bathroom", barring the final, got the only A.)
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Chainsaw and Dave, and how. Chainsaw's father says "they share the same brain."
  • Hot Teacher: Shoop, to the girls in the class, especially Pam, who ultimately fails at a Teacher/Student Romance. Justified, as it's Mark Harmon, who had been voted People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive a year before. Ms. Bishop counts, too.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: The guys hope that Anna-Maria will be an example of Europeans Are Kinky. During the Beach Episode, she goes to take off her bikini top but Denise stops her.
    "Whoa girl, this ain't the Riviera."
  • "L" Is for "Dyslexia": Denise. She tries to cover her poor academic performance with a Sassy Black Woman persona, but it eventually comes out.
  • Lovable Jock : Kevin, an all-around Nice Guy who helps Rhonda with her Lamaze.
  • Ms. Fanservice: While Pam isn't just eye candy (in fact she's involved in a major subplot), the shot of Courtney Thorne-Smith in a body glove wetsuit was obviously thrown in for this purpose.
  • No Periods, Period: Played with. When Pam ditches school to go surfing, she blames her absence on a "woman thing." Chainsaw then gripes that women have it made, causing Denise to go on a rant about how much the "woman thing" sucks.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Shoop lets Pam move in with him; although it's portrayed as platonic, Robin is appalled.
  • Rage Breaking Point: When Mr. Shoop tells his class to study for the upcoming proficiency test, they laugh at him and ask for more favors. He gets fed up with their slacker attitude and calls them out for the party that nearly burned his house, the legal trouble he got in from taking the fall when two students almost got caught for under age drinking, and the other stuff he already did for them. He then tells them he doesn't care if they fail and get kicked out of school and quits his job.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Principal Kelben. While he's quick to call Shoop out on some of his shenanigans, at the end of the summer term, he's not as quick to fire Shoop as Gills would like, allowing the parents of the students to have their say in support of Shoop. Furthermore, while the class test average is a 63, below passing, he himself points out that compared to the previous average of 23, it's a tremendous increase that proves Shoop's effectiveness as a teacher, and thus, grants him tenure.
  • Scary Black Man: A mild version in Jerome, the football player who insists he's there by mistake. Turns out to be a Genius Bruiser when he earns the highest mark in the class, after spending six weeks in the bathroom.
  • Shout-Out: Chainsaw and Dave are obsessed with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and other gory films.
  • Stereotypical Nerd: Alan is average looking, an academic underachiever in a family of overachievers, has poor social skills, and speaks in a high, weird voice.
  • Tantrum Throwing: As the date of the test nears, Mr. Shoop grabs a textbook and angrily throws it against a wall after his class laughs him off and ask for more favors if he wants them to study.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Rhonda is there because she's pregnant and her grades have fallen.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Gillis gets the chance to give a good one to Shoop when the latter takes the kids to an amusement park instead of class. Robin gives one to him when she finds out about Pam living with him.
  • Wild Teen Party: The class holds one at Shoop's apartment, resulting in a couch fire.