Amnesia Lane: Summer movies, part 1

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Today was intended to be a review of Batman v. Superman, but that ran into a small hitch when I didn’t see the movie (yet).

Though, frankly, it is unusual for an obvious summer tentpole movie to open in March. These sorts of things usually don’t happen before May. Because, you know, summer begins in May, right?

While we associate summer movies with these action/adventure blockbusters full of special effects that bank a cool half-million easily, so-called “summer” movies were a much different beast in my childhood. When I was a kid, you see, a summer movie wasn’t some blockbuster I saw in the theater, as one does today. Precious few of those came out in the ‘80s and ‘90s were ever worth watching.

No, a summer movie would be some random flick my sister and I (and sometimes our cousins) caught on TV or rented and copied and rewatched 50 times all through vacation until the school year returned.

I could use the movies to identify years instead of the numbers themselves — almost. The years we endlessly watched these movies weren’t necessarily the same as the year each came out. Here is the first half of what kept me inside during the dog days from ages six to 13:

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Uncle Buck

John Candy appears in John Hughes’ movies (Vacation, Trains Planes and Automobiles, The Great Outdoors, She’s Having a Baby, Home Alone, Career Opportunities, Only the Lonely and this one) more often than members of the Brat Pack. So It’s weird that they were so strongly associated with Hughes when they really only have St. Elmo’s Fire and The Breakfast Club to their name.

While this was another “It’s a movie about kids, so the kids should like it,” on my parents’ part, I was totally watching it for John Candy. This movie really turned my young self onto him as a comedian, though that more directly lead me to the Camp Candy TV series rather than, say, my later adoration of Stripes, Spaceballs and The Blues Brothers.

Despite being a comedy, Uncle Buck retains the hallmark tone of Hughes films, typically involving strife (especially amongst family members or spouses) and a tearful reconciliation to what I swear is the same piece of background music each time.

…This movie also had me thinking that Jean Louisa Kelly and Jennifer Grey were the same actress for the longest time.

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The Wizard

This was probably the mother of all summer movies for me. When I was young, I was very, VERY curious about game console ownership, but my parents were having none of that for quite a few years. This fueled a childhood obsession that perhaps is entirely responsible for my existence on Damage Control.

In any case, The Wizard was the perfect movie for a boy like me. In lieu of the videogames themselves, this almost blatant act of advertising helped scratch the itch so well, the local rental store eventually just sold their copy to my parents, so often had I requested it when it was my turn to pick the movie.

The movie itself does its best to disguise the marketing in the trappings of a family drama. And they really did seem to go for broke with the casting. Fred Savage and Christian Slater covered two generations of heartthrob. And if the “dad bod” is your thing, Beau Bridges was there do, playing an overconcerned but likeable father, just like all his other movies.

Part child power fantasy and part road movie, The Wizard spends a surprising amount of running time away from video games, showcasing any number of tourist traps on the long, winding montage to California. It’s no different when our protagonists arrive at Universal Studios for the Video Armageddon tournament, where the movie spends more time running around the theme park than the video game championship that is the climax of the B-plot cleverly disguised as an A-plot.

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Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead

This was headlined by Married With Children star Christina Applegate in one of her best movies. While the plot is somewhat simplistic and another kid power fantasy, it remains entertaining, if dated, all these years later.

You don’t believe it has staying power? Spend a little time on Google with the quote from that picture, and you’ll find it’s a full-fledged, merchandized meme.

The fascinating thing about this movie now is how it starts with the inmates running the asylum, but then somehow order breaks out of chaos. I suppose it was necessary for the happy ending, but it’s unusual for the moral of a kid power fantasy to be stop shooting the dishes, clean up and be responsible.


Despite the more popular lines from Applegate, THIS is the line I remember the most.

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Clue

Ah, the cult sensation. My sister and I found it the same way most others did: Watching it often on cable superstations because it was cheap to syndicate and didn’t have any foul language to edit out.

While Clue was kind of a bomb in the theatres despite its impeccable comedy bona fides, its revolutionary multiple-ending gimmick apparently worked much better when you could see all of the endings instead of just one at random.

Of all the movies on the list, Clue is far and away the one I watch and enjoy the most in the present day. I’m sure it’s your pick of this litter, too.


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