“Hey, Hoops, you ever notice how people die in alphabetical order?”
The Scoop: 1986 PG. Directed by Savage Steve Holland and starring John Cusack, Demi Moore, and Curtis Armstrong.
Tagline: They’re out of school, out on Nantucket, and out of their minds. With this crowd, anything can happen!
Summary Capsule: Teens spend a really crazy summer on an island, fighting against the forces of evil snobs and punks with pink wigs.
Al’s rating: Three out of four climactic regatta races.
Al’s review: Until tonight, I had never seen a Savage Steve Holland movie. I haven’t seen Better Off Dead, which has heaped much shame upon me in the workplace, and I was too old for most of SSH’s television efforts. I’ve actually been a little wary because, if I hear people talk about Savage Steve Holland, it’s almost always through the lens of childhood nostalgia. They loved this show when they were a kid. That movie was something they watched endlessly back in ninth grade. Whenever I come to a film after that sort of recommendation, I always brace myself for a massive letdown (The Dark Crystal, anybody?).
So, does One Crazy Summer hold up when viewed through grownup eyes, almost thirty years after its release? I’m happy to say the answer is a resounding Yes.
The movie tells the story of Hoops McCann (John Cusack playing John Cusack), a mopey, aspiring cartoonist looking for love and inspiration to help him get into Cartoonist College. The summer after graduation, Hoops is dragged down to Nantucket by his best friend George Calamari, and George’s little sister, Squid (Squid Calmari. Get it?). On the drive down, they meet hippie rock n’ roll chick, Cassandra Eldridge (Demi Moore), who is also headed to Nantucket to try and save her grandfather’s house from an evil real estate developer. Man, the Eighties were just brimming with those guys, weren’t they?
Once they arrive, Hoops and George buddy up with the local losers: the Stork Brothers, Egg & Clay (Bobcat Goldthwait & Tom Villard), and Ack Ack Raymond (Curtis “Booger” Armstrong). They also run afoul of the real estate developer’s son, Teddy; Teddy’s girlfriend, Cookie; and an assortment of stuck-up preppies that need to get taken down a peg. The two groups crisscross around Nantucket Island as hijinks ensue and romance buds between Cassandra and Hoops. Finally, everything culminates in a nailbiting Nantucket Regatta, which will determine the fate of Cassandra’s family home.
The truth is, there is absolutely no reason this movie should work. None. Everything in this film—the slobs vs snobs plot, the Big Race, the out-of-nowhere love triangle I didn’t bother to mention—has been chopped up and reheated so many times that it’s lost any flavor it ever had (if it ever had flavor to begin with).
Savage Steve Holland’s humor is, as advertised, entirely ridiculous. It was almost like the kid brother to movies like Meatballs or Bachelor Party. The jokes aren’t ever really offensive, they’re just broad and loud and impossible to ignore. They almost feel like they’re popping in from Toontown. If Teddy had been squashed by an anvil and spent the next scene walking around like an accordion, I don’t think I would have batted an eye.
Yet, against all odds, my cynical little heart really took a shine to this movie. For one, it’s jammed with You-Know-That-Guys from the ’80s and ’90s. I mentioned Bobcat Goldthwait and Curtis Armstrong above, but the movie also has bit roles for character actors like Jeremy Piven, Joe Flahrety, John Matuszak (Sloth!), Billie Bird, and Mark Metcalf. They weren’t even always there to be funny, but it was just entertaining to wait and see who might turn up in the next scene.
What was really refreshing for me, though, is how One Crazy Summer takes every tepid, derivative story moment and every dumb fourth-grade joke, and embraces them equally without comment and without shame. It merrily bops from one setpiece to the next, throwing anything and everything at the wall.
Even the name of the movie—One Crazy Summer— is almost aggressively not clever, but also isn’t asking for your approval or hedging its bets. It’s just completely content to be what it is. This will never top a chart or be a comedy touchstone for the masses. It’s simply guileless and goofy, and charming in a way that modern comedies aren’t. I don’t know that this is a film that is ever going to earn a spot on my shelf, but it definitely gets a thumbs-up from me and I’m happier just knowing that it’s out there.
Justin’s review: One Crazy Summer is the second movie in the so-called Savage Steve Holland trilogy (the first and third being Better Off Dead and How I Got Into College, respectively). Holland is a like-it-or-leave-it director; you either dig his juvenile love of sight gags and fantasy elements, or you pish-posh yourself out of the room. Although he’s not as famous as John Hughes, Holland’s films did much to define several teen movie clichés of the 80’s: the music montage, the prom, the good kids vs. snobby jocks, and wild abandon for traditional rules of comedy. I find his stuff refreshing after viewing the painfully rigid formulas today — and it’s more or less inoffensive humor for the whole family!
One Crazy Summer nearly seems like a sequel to Better Off Dead, including the casting of amateur cartoonist Hoops (John Cusack, who starred in BOD). Following high school graduation, Hoops and his best friend travel to Nantucket island, where the inhabitants are stranger than anywhere else in the world. Among them is my favorite loud-mouthed comedian Bobcat Goldthwait (who plays Egg), military wuss Ack Ack (played by another BOD veteran Curtis Armstrong), Squid and her ever-so-ugly dog, and Godzilla. Ah, yes, the Godzilla scenes had me snorting my Cheez-Its, and I’m sure its inclusion was the fulfillment of every childhood fantasy Savage Steve had.
Other than this island being some insane asylum for characterizations, the plot is very typical: evil real estate developers (remember, this was the eighties) are trying to buy out a large swath of land, which has sweet girl Cassandra’s (Demi “I do comedies?” Moore) house on it. Good guys must stop bad guys. You high IQ people get the picture.
Savage Steve Holland does his films like cartoons (and even throws in quite a bit of cartooning as well), so expect a lot of hit-and-miss scenes here. The boy scout troop that was rabid for first aid, I liked. The love triangle seemed tedious. The grand finale — a boat race, this time — lacked any real suspense, but pulled itself off in such a happy way that I can’t fault it for trying. I could have written the whole radio station givaway subplot in advance. Cusack is good, but somewhat toned down from his much loonier self in BOD, and is often shown up by his costars (except for Demi Moore’s fake singing). And so it goes.
However, while predictable, One Crazy Summer is never short on caffinated entertainment, which is the hallmark of the great eighties comedies. If you liked Better Off Dead, why not see the pseudo-sequel that has boats instead of skiing? I’m asking you, answer me!
Kyle’s rating: Less is more… Demi Moore!
Kyle’s review: After buying and loving Better Off Dead, I figured I had to own One Crazy Summer, and then I would love both of these John Cusack-starring Savage Steve Holland films. Now I own them both, and I am happy.
One Crazy Summer isn’t a paradigm shift like I see Better Off Dead as — OCS is more of a hour and a half of amusement. Cusack and friends on some island, having fun and working towards getting a young smoky-voiced (rrragh!) Demi Moore and Cusack together. It won’t change your life, it won’t make you blow milk out of your head holes, and it may not even make you smile if you’re too out of it. But it will allow you to pass a hour and a half mostly happy. And that’s enough.
- John Cusack’s friend and PCU alum Jeremy Piven appears as one of the jocks!
- The film features Generic High School and Generic Elementary School
- Hoops’ cat has trophies of kills on its carrier
- Savage Steve Holland did the animation for the film. He was upset Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert roasted his earlier John Cusack film, Better Off Dead. Two bunnies that get blown up at the end of the movie bear a strong (and not accidental) resemblance to the movie critics.
- Cassandra says DOW makes Mace. The DOW Chemical Company has never manufactured Mace. They did create Agent Orange, but not Mace.
- At the end of the credits: THE FILM’S OVER… YOU CAN GO NOW.
- This was Joel Murray’s (George) first film — he’s the younger brother of Bill Murray, believe it or not!
- The name Hoops McCann was taken from a character in the 1980 Steely Dan song “Glamour Profession.”
- When Calamari picks up two women at the dance, the strawberry blonde on the right is director Savage Steve Holland’s sister, whose childhood nickname was Squid and is the basis for the little girl in the film, also named Squid.
Egg: Ack Ack, let me tell you a little story. A story about a little fat kid who everybody made fun of, and nobody liked and he had a twin brother, and everybody said he never looked like his twin brother, but he wanted to…
Ack Ack: Egg, where you that little boy?
Egg: No! No! But I used to beat the s**t out him! “Why are you so fat? Why are so ugly?” Aaagghh!
Ack Ack: Great story, thanks.
George: Hey, Hoops, you ever notice how people die in alphabetical order?
Ack Ack: Do you realize that for every lost doll there’s a little girl with a broken heart.
George: Are you sure you want to be a Marine, Acky? I just can see you having a killer instinct.
George: Chili dog?
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