“The sea is a wondrous, mysterious, dangerous lady. She’ll make you rich or she’ll feed you to the fishes. You can’t control her. You got to give yourself to her. She wants you to dance, sonny boy! You got to follow her lead.”
Summer Rental, 1985 (John Candy) Paramount Pictures
I’ve always enjoyed John Candy; usually in a sidelined capacity, a supporting role, a wingman with a mental condition, or a left-field oddball. I remember he made two movies in 1991 (as the lead) and I enjoyed him in both: Delirious and Only the Lonely. In both movies he played similar characters; that of hapless lovelorn boobs. One was a cop, and the other was a soap opera writer. I think that’s where Candy’s strength lies — in his ability to communicate emotional destitution.
Summer Rental was an early jaunt into Candy’s potential to play a credible lead. His Jack Chester plays like a variation of Chevy Chase’s Clark W. Griswold (from the first, not the later, Vacation movies). Jack has a beautiful wife named Sandy (Karen Austin), two daughters (Kerri Green, Aubrey Jene), and a son (Joey Lawrence). He’s a workaholic air traffic controller who doesn’t want to take a vacation until his employers slap him with a 5-week mandatory paid leave.
He rents a summer house on a private beach in Citrus Cove, Florida. The house is beautiful (too good to be true, in fact), but, of course, it’s the wrong house. The right house is a dump right next to the “public beach.” He takes an immediate dislike to local sailing hero, obnoxious Al Pellet (Richard Crenna) who orders the last remaining lobsters and jumps his place in line at the seafood restaurant. He decides to go sailing with his son, so he rents a boat from the crusty Scully (Rip Torn, who has a hook for a hand), and he promptly slams his jib into Pellet’s hull, enraging him and injuring Jack.
He gets drunk and bonds with Scully, who offers to teach him how to sail. The funniest bit in the movie, for me, is when Torn teaches Candy one of his favorite sea shanties, which turns out to be the theme to The Love Boat. As it happens, the landlord of the property Candy is renting dies. Al Pellet buys the property and refuses to accept Candy’s rent check and demands he vacate the property. Candy challenges Pellet to a sailboat race at the annual regatta. If he wins, he gets to stay two more weeks in the summer house rent-free. If he loses, Pellet gets the rent check, and Candy’s family ships out.
This wouldn’t be an ’80s movie without a montage, so we get the whole family fixing up Scully’s old boat to get it ready for the race. Summer Rental exists as a series of episodes designed to embarrass or humiliate John Candy’s character while Candy attempts, in vain, to do the right thing, but then eventually everything works out for the best. This was standard for director Carl Reiner’s fare. Summer Rental is enjoyable, mainly for Candy and Torn’s scenes together. I miss them both.