Amnesia Lane: Summer Movies, part 2

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I promised myself that I wouldn’t publish the second half of this trip down Amnesia Lane until after Batman v. Superman review was a done deal. But there was also one other thing keeping me from finishing this.

The back four of my look at what passed for me and my sister’s childhood summer blockbusters is an odd bunch of lesser-known movies. The biggest difference between these and the movies in the first half of the feature? The first four I have continued to watch into adulthood. The following were left behind in my childhood… until now.

Because these were 20 or more years out of my head, it was necessary to take a refresher before writing about them. Did I err in leaving them behind? Did they have a secret brilliance that I missed as a kid? Are they good enough to watch more often than every few decades?

For the most part, yes, but not to the same level as the others. Here’s their ranking of worthiness of more frequent rewatching from highest to lowest:

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Short Circuit

I’m giving you GREAT imput.

Three of these movies feature robots, so we’ll start with the most prominent one.

Short Circuit mostly survives on the strength of its characters. Not because they’re amazing works of art, but because the actors committed so hard to them.

It makes me kind of wonder what happened to Steve Guttenberg. He was everywhere in the 80s and just went poof.

The most profound impact watching this movie had on my childhood was endlessly repeating the lines from No. 5’s thesaurus-like recitation of insults whilst stuck in the chicken coop. I may have added additional expletives I swore were part of the mostly G-rated list.

It’s a crushing disappointment to know that No. 5 would be CGI today, considering how fantastic a job they did building a real one.

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Batteries Not Included

Of all these “Summer Movies,” Batteries Not Included has got to be the oddest. I know I often say “you don’t get movies like this nowadays,” but there’s just no way it would ever get greenlit, even with Steven Spielberg’s cache.

I mean, the main plot is old folks reliving the good old days through science fiction, but without implanted memories or holograms or anything like that. Just the least-terrifying von Neumann machines you’ve ever seen.

This movie was also good for teaching me about nail houses, so there’s solid educational value, too, if you haven’t already seen Up.

This movie is also my sole source of information on how to commit arson. I probably have weird ideas about how one should go about it.

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Harry and the Hendersons

Another Amblin movie with a creature, Harry and the Hendersons is perhaps a little too cute with its premise. On the other hand, it’s mostly the fault of the exceptionally sappy soundtrack.

It has a lot of well thought-out visuals. The design of the sasquatch was well done, able to emote while looking neither horrific nor cartoonish. While Harry doesn’t get the majority of the screen time, each of his appearances is memorable. It looks like the actor in the suit (Kevin Peter Hall, better known as the Predator) must have been having a lot of fun if he wasn’t constantly overheating.

I’m not sure how much I liked this as a kid. I know I watched it a lot, but for all its good points it’s kind of bland and goes nowhere compared to the other movies. It also has little legacy beyond a two-year TV series that also didn’t persist in popular culture or nostalgia.

Space Camp

Speaking of lacking a legacy, this movie is damn hard to find and I haven’t discovered why. A DVD came out back in 2004, but most of the copies in circulation are Region 2 (Europe/Japan/Middle East)! Searching for it on Netflix returns no result at all, implying that not only do they not have any copies of it presently, but also that they never have.

While Harry and the Hendersons could work better for adult me with new music, Space Camp is not so lucky. It had the ability to capture a kid’s imagination with teases of NASA equipment. As an adult, I can see the movie spends its first half mired in 80s teen cliches. And all the drama in space revolves around the oxygen tank sequence, so it’s not like you get much up in orbit, either.

Space Camp’s appeal was all about ideas. The notion that you could insert yourself into the fantasy of going to Space Camp to begin with, followed by the even crazier fantasy of getting accidentally launched into space. Though why you’d want to fantasize about almost dying over and over and over again remains an exercise to the viewer.

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