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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 7.14%
Average: 28.57%
Pretty Bad50%
Total Crap: 14.29%

1 review, 8 user ratings

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Summer Rental
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by Jack Sommersby

"A Soggy Star Vehicle for John Candy"
2 stars

John Candy was one of the funniest men alive, but even he couldn't rescue this negligently written and directed bumer.

Summer Rental is one of the shoddiest-looking films I've ever had the displeasure of witnessing, and what's really telling is that it starts out looking shoddy in its overcast Chicago exteriors and still looks shoddy when it switches locales to sunny St. Petersburg Beach, Florida. The cinematographer, Ric Waite, as he demonstrated in 48 Hrs. and Cobra, is talented and capable of working with a director to lend a visual interpretation onto the material; but here he's working with Carl Reiner, the director of The Jerk and All of Me, whose visual and compositional sense has never been anything to get out of bed for, and Waite seems to have given up any hope of lighting the damn thing without even so much as an iota of vitality. There's a washed-out, fuzzy look to the images that even a gallon of Windex likely wouldn't have any luck at cutting through, which is similar to the look of Robert Altman's apocalyptic sci-fi curio Quintet, which took place in a desolate new Ice Age and was at least deliberately designed to look unappetizing. Like too many star vehicles cooked up for a comic actor, Summer Rental is technically sloppy and aesthetically mediocre -- a ninety-minute piece of inconsequential cinema with characters and dialogue and story of such plasticity it's amazing they managed to stick to the celluloid. The thinking that goes into a film like this is that it's the star who matters, that it's he or she the audience has come to see, and in a general sense this is indeed true; but the star on display here, John Candy, is not a particularly magnetic or sexy presence, so his comic talent and timing need be put to even more good use to make up for this, so when the jokes miss much more often than they hit, there's undoubtedly a problem. (Even a bona fide treasure like Bill Murray couldn't overcome the rotten likes of Where the Buffalo Roam, Larger Than Life, and The Man Who Knew Too Little.)

The written-on-the-back-of-a-matchbook story finds Candy playing Jack Chester, a veteran air-traffic controller so burned out he can't recognize a fly has landed on his screen and blocked sight of the blip from a plane he worriedly thinks has vanished from the sky; at the suggestion of his boss, Jack takes his three young children, wife and dog and high-tails it to Florida for some much-needed R&R. Of course, things start go awry right from the get-go: Jack falls asleep in the sun and gets afflicted with a five-alarm sunburn; he moves into the wrong condo (their intended one is a dump with a construction crew loudly working next door at the crack of dawn); he falls and gets his leg in a cast; and he manages to irk the ire of the community's most powerful citizen, Al Pellet (Richard Crenna), a megalomaniacal yachtsman with a seething despisement for tourists. None of these situations are particularly amusing in themselves, and Reiner hasn't helped matters by staging them with the creativity and finesse of an industrial-training video. He seems oblivious to the concept of employing timing and editing to execute and shape a scene; and, more often than not, we're wise to the punchline of that scene before Jack is. There's a potentially workable scene in a restaurant where Jack, with family in tow, stands in an hours-long waiting line for a table just so Pellet can barge in and get preferentially seated before him, but then Reiner doesn't satisfyingly build the scene to an inspired climax -- he merely relies on Candy to unamusingly shout and angrily hit Pellet's table. (Har, har.) Just as negligent is when Jack's condo is taken over by tourists mistaking it for a community beach house, and Reiner, rather than seizing the potential for physical slapstick, cops out by ending it with another Candy shout-fest. And topping it all off is a perfunctory yacht-race finale, which is about as well-choreographed as a drunk fumbling for his car keys, to fulfill the action quotient.

Summer Rental is notable in that it offers Candy his first starring role after a series of standout supporting bits in worthwhile comedies like Stripes and Splash (which should have earned him an Oscar nod), but Reiner is neither an Ivan Reitman nor a Ron Howard, and the first-time screenwriters are all-thumbs at coalescing gags into an organic whole -- they just throw whatever seems to hit them on a whim onto the page and hope it sticks. Candy doesn't go down for the count, though: he hangs in valiantly and succeeds at bringing some semblance of good-natured bewilderment to the proceedings. When lugging around a leaky ice chest on a crowded beach and inadvertently wetting down sunbathers with cold water, his offhand apologetics are very funny, as is his briefly singing "Oh say can you see...!" as he falls to the ground after his son accidentally nails him in the groin with a Frisbee, and even in the dumb scene where he's asked to feel his attractive neighbor's newly-gotten silicone breasts he manages to come up with some dexterous reactions. But far too much of the time Candy's stranded in an array of unchallenging situations that require only reactions rather than genuine interactions -- the writing doesn't infuse character with incident, but just plops the character into the incident to justify its existence. And as Candy's nemesis, the game Crenna is largely wasted, too. Crenna, always best when playing a heel (remember his outstanding performance as the corrupt big-shot card player in The Flamingo Kid?), exhibits oodles of energy, but he hasn't been directed to effectively channel it; like Candy, he's been left simply to simmer and yell and emote. These two could have made for a formidable dueling pair, with some zing in their give-and-take and vim in their contrasting physicalities, but they've been jettisoned into a formulaic abyss by filmmakers whose bankrupt imaginations keep them anchored down in mediocrity.

Check out Candy's starring roles in "Uncle Buck" and "Only the Lonely" instead.

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originally posted: 02/20/05 12:59:35
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User Comments

3/05/05 taj Banal and kinda generic, but it's got some chuckles and a good cast 3 stars
2/28/05 Jeff Anderson Too many dull & drab scenes not to mention unfunny to boot! John Candy deserves much better 1 stars
2/26/05 Joy Venters cute, but not one of John Candy's best 3 stars
2/24/05 Dusty Johnson I thought this was a FUNNY movie - john Candy was great 3 stars
2/23/05 tatum Terrible, not one laugh 1 stars
2/22/05 Debora Browning This was a cute movie even if it was a little corny 3 stars
2/21/05 david basile classic candy 4 stars
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  09-Aug-1985 (PG)
  DVD: 17-Apr-2001



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