Directed By: Carl Reiner
Written By: Mark Reisman, Jeremy Stevens
Produced By: George Shapiro
Cast: John Candy, Karen Austin, Richard Crenna, Rip Torn
MPAA Rating: PG
Runtime: 87 minutes
Review Date: January 21, 2011
Summer Rental is a John Candy film. Do I really need to write more? It’s as if this man was created for the hypothetical “Visual Dictionary” and next to the words “Affable, Gargantuan, Lovable, Clumsy, Innocuous, and Clueless” was a picture of Candy, clad in distasteful clothing, smiling with a pair of thumbs to frame his face. He was one of the go to guys in the ’80s, and this film proves it. This is lighthearted, goofball fare that at times breaches its PG rating. And, on that note, I must add: Shouldn’t the MPAA rerelease ratings for films, because I’m sure the running boob joke is sure to offend some youngsters? More on that later.
Digressions aside, the film stars John Candy as Jack Chester (though he’s really just playing John Candy) who works at an air traffic control unit. Overworked and unkempt, his boss demands he take a summer vacation with his family when he frantically mistakes a fly for a blip on the radar. He and his family set off for the Florida coast for a beautiful cottage on a secluded beach. I must say that the man has some good intentions, but where would an ’80s film be without a hiccup or ten?
When they realize that the quaint rental home to which they’ve arrived is not theirs, they find themselves flabbergasted to discover what is: A dilapidated hut that a vagrant might reconsider. To make matters worse, the din of the adjacent (and public) beach is a ruckus. Things are not going as planned, but Jack/Candy (per usual) vows to have a good time.
The Vacation movies come to mind, don’t they? They should, considering this film shares quite a few similarities to that timeless franchise. In all honesty, it often plays out exactly like the first film but with a different location and protagonist. It’s a shame the film has been shrouded by its contemporaries, and I place the blame with Mark Reisman and Jeremy Steven’s anemic script. Some may say that films like this are in no need of a strong script, that the schmaltzy ’80s fun could be driven alone by the comedic talents of its cast. I, for one, always reference The Jerk (another film directed by Summer Rental’s Carl Reiner) and Fletch. These two films are funnier than Summer Rental not just because they were granted stronger scripts, but because the narrative inherent within was something worth caring about. There just isn’t much of a story here.
What story does exist revolves around a regatta race. The seminal Richard Crenna plays Al Pellet, a snobbish sailer who often disrupts the family’s vacation. It only naturally follows, then, that Jack/Candy challenges him to a race. Until he reaches his goal, he must navigate through a series of mishaps that literally gravitate towards the buffoon and his hapless family. Along the way, he meets Rip Torn as a pirate restauranteur who’s “Fresh Catch of the Day” consists of fish from a frozen yellow box. Then, as I previously mentioned, is the woman with the large fake boobs. She pops up from time to time to show the additions off (She even asks Jack/Candy to feel them), but the joke fell flat. If this vignette was stale in the ’80s, you can only imagine how America’s “Plastic Omnipresence” renders it today. Meh.
What we have is one set piece followed by another until the inevitable regatta, and then the film just ends. It’s enjoyable while it lasts, but I’ll have to reference this review in the future to remember any of it.
Kyle Kogan is a film critic living in Chicago.