They’re the last bunch in the world you’d expect to win anything…But with this crowd anything can happen!
One weird ISLAND:
One wanton woman.
One wicked tycoon.
One wacky musician.
One Japanese monster.
One damsel in distress.
One load of loonies…
One crazy summer!
We open to the demented animated world of cartoonist Hoops McCann, daydreaming before his graduation from generic high school (no capitalization.) Instead of staying home for the summer, he takes his friend up on an offer of spending the summer up at Nantucket.
Along the way, they pick up singer Cassandra (Demi Moore) and a deranged 8-year-old girl and her weird dog, piss off a biker gang, befriend a crazy pair of mechanic ‘twins,’ and piss off the local rich douchebags on arrival.
As was typical in 80s comedies, the rich boys must face their comeuppance in a
skiing contest– golf tournament– summer camp Olympiad– regatta, using a fixed up derelict boat found on the beach. A killer dolphin with rabies helps.
The brainchild of Savage Steve Holland, this was his slightly more polished sophomore outing as writer/director. His first had been the underrated Better Off Dead, also starring Cusak, which came the year before. ‘Savage’ Steve had started as an animator, creating the ‘Whammy’ on the game show ‘Press Your Luck.’ Steve went on to bring to television The New Adventures of Beans Baxter which unfortunately only had a single season on Fox.
You can see Steve’s animation background come through in fantasy segments in this film-and even the live-action plot plays very much like a cartoonish send-up of summer teen comedies, heavy on physical comedy. In probably the funniest segment of the film, Bobcat Goldthwait dons a Godzilla costume and stomps on an architectural model of a proposed condo development, a project planned by local douchebag’s dad.
The film gives us great early 19-year old John Cusack when he was in a string of teen comedies like The Sure Thing, Better Off Dead, and Hot Pursuit before tackling more complicated performances in Say Anything, Grosse Pointe Blank, and High Fidelity. Unfortunately, Cusack never appeared in any more Savage Steve projects.
Demi Moore appears as girlfriend Cassandra-Moore was just becoming known, having been in St. Elmo’s Fire the prior year and About Last Night, released the prior month. In the 90s, she would shoot to superstardom with Ghost, A Few Good Men, and Indecent Proposal.
80s comedy regulars Bobcat Goldthwait and Curtis Armstrong (Booger from Revenge of the Nerds) show up, along with appearances from Rich Hall and Rich Little. Newcomer Jeremy Piven played one of the rich douche-canoes that annoy our team of lead characters. The nutty Billie Bird appears as the grandma who charges for meals. You’ll likely recognize others-for a teen summer comedy, quite a number of cameos from familiar faces show up.
Reportedly many of the antics that made it on screen were improvised by Curtis Armstrong and Bobcat Goldthwait and they made uncredited contributions to the script as well.
Widely released in early August, the film faced strong competition from concurrent releases The Fly, Stand By Me, Howard The Duck, and Flight of the Navigator; not to mention Aliens, The Karate Kid Part II, and Top Gun still in the top 10 films that weekend. Unfortunately, the film only earned a total of $13 million during the crazy summer of 1986. Warner did not release budget info for the film.
Filmed on location around Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and The Islands, several local landmarks are seen. Pope John Paul II High School is seen as ‘generic high school’; Hyannis West Elementary is seen as ‘generic elementary’, and the Steamship Authority is used for one of the crazy stunts early in the film.
How was the film received at the time? Nina Darnton of The New York Times wrote, “In spite of the director’s flair for zany humor, this film is just absurd.” Pat Graham of the Chicago Reader found it “Not a bad film, and certainly more polished than Holland’s Better Off Dead debut, though it’s marred by unevenness and the director’s ineradicable penchant for infantile clowning.”
Socially Distant Cinema is a column that will regularly point you to content from the 70s/80s currently available on various platforms that may bring you some entertainment during these periods of physical distancing...and beyond.