Days of Summer #4: Savage Steve Holland’s “One Crazy Summer” (1986)

One Crazy Summer

In my book, there’s a distinct difference between “Summer Movies” and “Movies to Watch During Summer”, although they’re not mutually exclusive terms. While the term “Summer Movie” denotes a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster released during the months of May, June, July, or August, it is typically the case that these films have very little to do with the actual season. In this new feature, I’ll be ranting and raving about my favorite “Movies to Watch During Summer”, to anybody who cares to listen.

One Crazy Summer
One Crazy Summer (1986, Dir: Savage Steve Holland)

Think of writer-director Savage Steve Holland’s 1986 John Cusack summer classic as the companion piece to his own 1985 John Cusack winter classic Better Off Dead. Both feature The Cusack as an angsty cartoonist fraught with challenges of the heart, exacerbated by the athletic challenges of the particular season he’s in (boat racing in One Crazy Summer, skiing in Better Off Dead), with surreal comedic situations abound. And if there’s one thing I love more than 80’s slasher flicks, it’s 80’s John Cusack movies. Which makes me really wish somebody had thought to combine the two when they had the chance.

It’s hard to put my finger on it in a scientific way, but something about John Cusack just sets you at ease. Maybe it’s his “aw shucks” personality or his uncanny ability to play characters who are tall-dark-and-handsome, but at the same time woefully unpopular. Or maybe it’s just the fact that in every single film he made in the 80’s, there is not one but TWO beautiful ladies in his life, usually entailed by the feather-weight blonde (who he thinks he wants) and the more substantial brunette (who he actually wants, but it takes him some 83 minutes to figure that out). For the purposes of One Crazy Summer, the part of the substantial brunette is played by Demi Moore, which is not too shabby as far as backup options go.

Anyway, Cusack plays Hoops McCann, who despite his name, is absolutely terrible at basketball. He decides to spend his summer vacation in Nantucket, with his motley crew of friends, including Curtis Armstrong (in virtually the same role he played in Better Off Dead), the inestimable George Calamari (Joel Murray) and Bobcat Goldthwaite who spends the bulk of the film being extremely Bobcat Goldthwaitey. Along the way to their summer house, Hoops and the gang encounter Cassandra (Moore), an aspiring singer who is trying to save her grandfather’s house from a greedy land developer.

Naturally, a great deal of summer antics ensue on the way to saving the old codger’s house, including the best boat race of all time, a radio-contest-obsessed shut-in, lobsters in swimming pools, Bobcat Goldthwaite trapped in a Godzilla costume (at a high-society social gathering where being trapped in a Godzilla costume is generally frowned upon), and of course, good old fashioned summer loving, Cusack style.

Best Way to Watch: At the summer travel destination of your choice, but preferably just during a lull in your weighty and ongoing decision whether to go out with Demi Moore, who will mature with age like a fine wine, or leggy vixen Kimberly Foster, who was pretty much peaking in 1986. If you haven’t figured it out already, it’s really difficult being John Cusack.

Best Paired with: Nachos and Wine Coolers. Why? Because it’s summer, that’s why! And you’re crazy!

Further Viewing: The obvious match here is Better Off Dead, but in sticking with our summer theme, I’m going to go with a deeper cut, namely 1987’s Hot Pursuit. Directed by Steven Lisberger (Tron), Hot Pursuit is far and away the weirdest film John Cusack made in his early comedic career. Cusack plays perpetual underachiever Dan, who will stop at nothing to catch up to his ninja girlfriend on her Caribbean family vacation.

After Dan burns some time carousing with Rastafarians and knife-throwers, things take an oddly dark turn when a young Ben Stiller decides to start kidnapping and murdering people, while Dan is forced to team up with salty pirate Mac (Lost Highway‘s singularly terrifying Robert Loggia), who proceeds to indoctrinate Dan with his cynical and violent worldview. It’s kind of like One Crazy Summer meets Apocalypse Now.


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