Summer Rental (1985) – A Review
John Candy is an overworked air traffic controller who goes on a family beach vacation and he gets very little relaxing done.
The family’s summer rental house isn’t the coziest or quietest place for his vacation. Candy’s stay includes, mishaps, sunburn, aggravation, busty neighbors, palling around with pirate bartender Rip Torn and a boat showdown with arrogant local Richard Crenna.
Eh. I’ve head some describe Summer Rental as a ‘comedy classic’. I think that’s really being too kind. Yes, we all love John Candy and he was a funny guy. Plus, it was directed by Carl Reiner and it has a relatable premise we can all identify with. Put those together you would expect something special, but Summer Rental is at best a passable harmless comedy. It has some chuckles, but in the end I always found it a pretty forgettable lightweight experience.
It is National Lampoons Vacation-lite. It has a similar type of story – family man goes on a vacation and it turns to hell – but it has nowhere near the amount of laughs, memorable scenes, characters or unique twists on a vacationing story to ignite many laughs. It basically squeaks by from the likability of Candy.
His family just fill their roles. There’s nothing notable about any of the characters or what they provide. Karen Austin is Candy’s devoted loving wife and that’s simply that. Kerri Green and Joey Lawrence argue a bit and are given insignificant storylines. Aubrey Jene is the youngest daughter. She’s meant to be cute and that is all.
There is one moment where that adorable daughter is incredibly badly dubbed. It’s really terrible and has always stuck with me. It seriously sounds like an adult trying to do a little girl voice. It has always stood out to me and I would laugh at it even when I was younger watching this.
I’ve learned that I haven’t been the only one who has shaken my head at this awful dub in Summer Rental, since folks have posted it on Youtube and others have revealed they’ve also been laughing at it for decades. I’ve done a bit of research and the story I’ve read was that for whatever reason they needed the little girl to redub the line, but she had already left the production. They didn’t want to pay to fly her back, so they got Green to dub the line and a magical movie moment was born.
Check it out and tell me if this doesn’t sound like one of the most pathetic audio band-aids you’ve ever seen. Add in the confusing response Yorku says (I have no idea what he’s meant to be saying) and it actually becomes one of the funniest moments in the movie. I have no clue as to what he’s meant to be saying. It doesn’t seem like he can get the line out! Forget that “Yanni or Laurel” jazz, try to make sense out of this!
Anyway, the family isn’t very interesting. Candy is trying to impress son Lawrence, but that doesn’t seem like as much of a motivator in the story as initially it starts out to be. Daughter Green is making time with some lifeguards that make Candy uncomfortable. But again, that kind of drops off the radar.
As Candy sits and recuperates from an injury, his family hangs out with John Larroquette. Now, it’s looking like this might spark some jealousy in Candy, knowing his wife is spending some time with this handsome, cool guy. Nope. That’s another thing that just pops up and ends. I always forget Larroquette is in this movie.
Towards the end some of Torn’s quirky pirate pals show up, I guess to provide some laughs. They don’t. They feel like they’re just forgettable background characters and aren’t given enough time or funny moments to warrant any more mentioning. The highpoint from them is that Yorku confused dialogue scene.
Had Torn and Crenna not been at the beach there would have been absolutely no one to provide additional interest in this other than Candy. Towards the end some of Torn’s quirky pals show up, I guess to provide some laughs. They don’t. They feel like they’re just crowbarred in and aren’t given enough time or funny moments to warrant any more mentioning.
The main driving force is Candy and Crenna annoying each other and finally making a big bet of winning the local regatta. Crenna is quite pompously funny in his few scenes he has. I wish he got more screentime in this.
Candy and Torn drink together. Torn really plays up his pirate persona and that wears me down fast. Candy gets schooled at how to sail. Top that off with a montage accompanied by a Jimmy Buffett tune of the family coming together to fix up Torn’s boat. Then finally, the big boat race, which doesn’t provide any excitement. Candy wins and that’s it.
Thanks to Summer Rental and One Crazy Summer, I always imagined I was missing out on my summer vacations since I never had a boat race with some bad guy. Based on these movies you would think that’s how summers are always meant to end.
It seems like they didn’t have enough material to fill an entire movie. The best moments are the simpler ones involving foul ups around a basic summer beach vacation. There are some fun gags, but they’re way too few to call it a success.
I always thought the sunburn joke was amusing. It’s really not that complicated a joke, but it’s funny seeing candy with strange awkward pink sunburnt shapes on him. The family mistaking their summer rental for a different house is amusing and Candy clumsily navigating around the crowded beach is alright.
Also, Lois Hamilton as his sexy neighbor innocently asking his opinion on her new breast implants, that’s another highlight. Again, it’s not very sophisticated, but Candy is funny with his responses.
Not surprisingly she was one the few things I always remembered about Summer Rental. She was a very attractive lady and while rewatching it I looked up information about her to see what became of her career. I was sadly surprised to learn she had committed suicide in 1999.
Candy comes off fine in this. It really goes to his credit as to how likable he was that he could survive so many uninspired comedies, be the best thing about them and continue to be so beloved. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say they hated John Candy in this.
Another thing I was struck by rewatching this is what a contrast Summer Rental is to that recent Vacation reboot movie. Whereas that one consisted of vile, tasteless, gross humor, Summer Rental looks G-rated in comparison. It does have a simple charm and innocence to it that seems lost in comedies today.
Really the edgiest thing is Hamilton flashing her boobs to Candy, which the joke is how uncomfortable Candy is by her doing it. I imagine if that scene was done today it would be much more graphic and lowbrow. They’d probably have her have these massive implants or disgustingly scarred boobs or something to provide a gross out shock.
I never considered Summer Rental as any kind of great or ‘classic comedy’. Maybe others get more out of it than I do and continue to appreciate how it plays as much more a wholesome comedy today more than ever.
For me, it has much more misses and lags than highs. The best bits probably would amount to a few minutes total. It’s a harmless, bland bust.