DirectorSavage Steve Holland
Release Date(s)1986 (August 10, 2021)
Studio(s)A&M Films/Warner Bros (Warner Archive Collection)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: C+
- Extras Grade: B+
One Crazy Summer was the second of three films that writer/director Savage Steve Holland made in the latter half of the 80s, between Better Off Dead and How I Got into College. Like Frank Tashlin before him, Holland came from the world of animation, and he brought the visual sensibilities of the cartoon medium into live action. Unlike Tashlin, Holland wasn’t particularly successful as a feature filmmaker, so he ended up retreating to television after 1989. That’s a shame, because he brought a unique style and voice into teen comedies, with a bit more depth than critics gave him credit for—there’s some genuinely relatable teen angst hidden between the surreal sight gags. Holland was still in his twenties, and he hadn’t forgotten his own fears as a teenager; in fact, many elements in all three films are autobiographical.
“Hoops” McCann (John Cusack) is a recent high school graduate hoping to find a career as a cartoonist, but more importantly, hoping to find love. He decides to spend the summer on Nantucket Island with his best friend George Calamari (Joel Murray), despite the fact that he’s deathly afraid of boats. Along the way, they rescue a singer named Cassandra (Demi Moore), and since she’s trying to save her grandfather’s home from a greedy developer (Mark Metcalf), Hoops decides to enlist friends both old and new to help her. Inevitably, Hoops will have to face his fears in the process. One Crazy Summer arguably has a bit too much plot for what is essentially a coming-of-age story, but it’s always satisfying to watch grassroots efforts to fight the system.
Regardless, the story is never as important to Holland’s films as are the sight gags, and there are some truly memorable ones in One Crazy Summer. It may not be as quotable as Better Off Dead (“I want my two dollars”), but those sight gags are just as inventive. The supporting cast is wonderful, with the diminutive Bobcat Goldthwait standing head and shoulders above the rest—he’s so manic here that he almost makes Harpo Marx look like Zeppo. (His Godzilla scene is one for the ages.) The rest of the cast is filled with familiar faces like Curtis Armstrong, Jeremy Piven, William Hickey, John Matuszak, Joe Flaherty, Billie Bird, Taylor Negron, Bruce Wagner, and Rich Little. Unfortunately, Cusack wasn’t happy with either this film or Better Off Dead, and he actually stopped speaking to Holland as a result.
Critics of the day weren’t much happier; when it came to this genre, they only had eyes for John Hughes. But Holland had the last laugh. During the animated sequence which closes the film, watch for two of the bunnies who are attempting to waylay the hero on his road to happiness—their resemblance to Siskel and Ebert isn’t a coincidence. Holland took personal satisfaction in animating their comeuppance—he wasn’t about to give in to all the cute and fuzzy bunnies in the world.
Cinematographer Isidore Mankofsky shot One Crazy Summer in 35 mm using Panaflex cameras with spherical Panavision lenses, and framed at 1.85:1 for its theatrical release. There’s no information given about the elements used for the transfer, but it’s likely a 2K scan taken from an interpositive (as is customary with many Warner Bros Blu-ray releases). The fine detail and grain are just a bit softer than what would have come from the original negative, but it doesn’t necessarily look like the results of digital noise reduction—the image isn’t scrubbed clean. Fine textures like grass, leaves, and facial features are clear in close-ups, but they can appear somewhat smoother at a distance. The color balance is good, with decent contrast and black levels. The only major defect is some wobble during the closing credits.
The only audio option available on the disc is English 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio, with optional English subtitles. Everything sounds clean, though the upper end of the frequency range seems to be rolled off, which makes the music and dialogue sound a bit flat and muffled.
Extras include the following:
- Audio Commentary by Savage Steve Holland, Bobcat Goldthwait, and Curtis Armstrong
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 1:32)
The commentary was originally recorded for the 2003 DVD release of the film, and it’s the rare track which is nearly as amusing as the film itself. The trio is energetic, enthusiastic, and they clearly get along well with each other. Goldthwait jokes all throughout the track, but he manages to do so without stepping on the other two—and they both manage to crack him up as well. They do offer interesting stories about the production, and Holland notes which gags came from his own experience; for example, Billie Bird charging everyone for dinner was based on the fact that Holland’s grandmother did the same thing. Everyone tiptoes around John Cusack, though at one point Holland does mention that the actor still won’t talk to him. There are occasional gaps of silence, and while some of them are due to bathroom breaks (at least according to the commenters), it’s possible that others may have been the result of removing sections from the original 2003 version of the track—it’s not unusual for commentaries of this vintage to contain material which makes risk-averse modern executives nervous. The trailer is worth watching because it features Goldthwait in character serving as its narrator—Holland mentions shooting those parts in the commentary track, but Goldthwait doesn’t remember doing so.
One Crazy Summer is the kind of film where the offbeat sense of humor won’t appeal to everyone. Here’s one quick litmus test: Bobcat Goldthwait and Tom Villard play identical twins. If that concept doesn’t strike you as inherently funny, then this may not be the comedy for you. But if you’re open to the thought of Tex Avery style sight gags in a live action film, then you should happily join the many fans who have loved One Crazy Summer for more than three decades.
- Stephen Bjork
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