Summer School (1987 film)

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Summer School
Summer school poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byCarl Reiner
Screenplay byJeff Franklin
Story by
  • Jeff Franklin
  • Stuart Birnbaum
  • David Dashev
Produced by
CinematographyDavid M. Walsh
Edited byBud Molin
Music byDanny Elfman
Distributed byParamount Pictures[1]
Release date
  • July 22, 1987 (1987-07-22)
Running time
98 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States[1]
Box office$35.7 million (US)[2]

Summer School is a 1987 American comedy film directed by Carl Reiner and starring Mark Harmon as a high school gym teacher who is forced to teach a remedial English class during the summer. The film co-stars Kirstie Alley and Courtney Thorne-Smith. It was distributed by Paramount Pictures and produced by George Shapiro and Howard West. The original music score was composed by Danny Elfman.


On the last day of school before summer vacation, physical education teacher Freddy Shoop (Mark Harmon) is preparing to leave on a vacation to Hawaii with his girlfriend, Kim. Vice principal Phil Gills (Robin Thomas) hands out paper slips informing several underachieving students, including easily distracted Pam (Courtney Thorne-Smith); "nocturnal" Larry, a male stripper (Ken Olandt); football jock Kevin (Patrick Labyorteaux); pregnant Rhonda (Shawnee Smith); geeky Alan (Richard Steven Horvitz); dyslexic Denise (Kelly Jo Minter); intimidating Jerome (Duane Davis), and two horror-film-obsessed underachievers, Dave (Gary Riley) and Francis, a.k.a. "Chainsaw" (Dean Cameron), that they must attend summer school for remedial English.

After the teacher scheduled to teach the class, Mr. Dearadorian (Carl Reiner), wins the lottery and immediately quits work, Gills searches for an emergency replacement among the teachers still on school grounds, but each manages to evade him after guessing what he wants them to do. He finally manages to corner Shoop, and blackmails him into taking the job or make him lose tenure.

On his first day, Shoop meets Robin Bishop (Kirstie Alley), who is teaching American History next door. Shoop falls for her, but she is already dating Gills. Shoop's first day is a disaster. Most of the students slack around, and Jerome goes to the bathroom and doesn't return. A beautiful Italian transfer student, Anna-Maria (Fabiana Udenio), is transferred to the class in order for her to work on her English, much to the delight of Dave and Chainsaw. After some students inexplicably leave and the remaining ones attempt to leave class as well, Shoop admits he has no idea how to teach them. Rather than studying, he and the students spend their first few days having fun and going to the beach, a theme park, and a petting zoo until Alan's aunt finds out and tells Gills.

Gills threatens to fire Shoop unless his students pass the end-of-term test. Shoop negotiates promises to each teen to grant them a favor if they study. The kids agree, so Shoop gives Denise driving lessons, accompanies Rhonda to Lamaze classes, gives Kevin football lessons, allows Dave and Chainsaw to throw a party in his house and give them rides to school, gives Larry a bed in the classroom, lets Chainsaw arrange a screening of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in class and allows Pam to move in with him. Seeing he is still floundering as a teacher, Robin tells Shoop to make learning fun. Shoop begins to grow closer to the kids. They study to pass their English basic skills exam, worried that Gills is going to fire Shoop unless all his students pass.

Shoop is arrested when he covers for Chainsaw and Dave after they are found in possession of alcohol. He calls Robin and her and Gills bail him out of jail. Gills then inadvertently exposes his true self to Robin when he states he cares nothing for Shoop or his students and she overhears him, causing her to storm off. Larry loses his stripper job when he is found out by his aunt and his mother, who are attending the club where he works. The students make more demands on Shoop and he throws an English book against the chalkboard and after stating his sacrifices to grant their favors, quits his job in anger. His students start feeling guilty about what they did, and scare off Shoop's dull replacement with a series of gory stunts reminiscent of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. They find Shoop moping in the beach whilst eating ice cream, and ask him to return, with him accepting.

Shoop and his students then begin preparing for the test in earnest, and even Jerome, who had "gone to the bathroom" weeks before, returns. The exam goes smoothly, despite Rhonda going into labor soon after finishing. Gills reveals to Shoop that the average of grades was below passing, so Gills is ready to follow through with his firing threat. However, the parents of the students come to Shoop's defense. Because of the students' marked improvement, Principal Kelban (Francis X. McCarthy) grants Shoop tenure for his positive efforts.

Shoop returns to the beach with his dog and Robin. He asks her to a dinner date for the last time, with her accepting at last and kissing him in the sunset.



The Summer School soundtrack, on Chrysalis, consists of 1980s rock and dance songs with performers including Paul Engemann, Blondie, E. G. Daily, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Vinnie Vincent, Billy Burnette, and Elisa Fiorillo.

Some songs that appear in the film, including James Brown's, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and Eddie Murphy's "Party All the Time", do not appear on the soundtrack. The movie is also notable for containing the only completely unreleased Danny Elfman film score to date.

Daily's "Mind over Matter" was released as a single off the soundtrack. It became a top 10 dance hit in the US and hit #96 in the UK in 1988. The song was originally recorded by Debbie Harry, but label disputes caused her recording to go unreleased and Daily was chosen to sing it instead. The song was produced at PWL by Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Happy" – Oingo Boingo (3:57)
  2. "Mind over Matter" – E. G. Daily (4:21)
  3. "Jackie" – Elisa Fiorillo (3:41)
  4. "I'm Supposed to Have Sex with You" – Tonio K (5:00)
  5. "Seduction" – E.G. Daily (3:41)
  6. "Brain Power" – Paul Engemann (4:09)
  7. "All I Want from You" – Tami Show (5:09)
  8. "Second Language" – Tone Norum (3:40)
  9. "My Babe"  – The Fabulous Thunderbirds (2:36)
  10. "Get an Education" – Billy Burnette (3:45)


Summer School holds a 58% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 33 reviews; the average rating is 5.5/10 indicating mixed or average reviews.[3] Roger Ebert gave the film ½ out of four stars, calling it "listless, leisurely and unspirited".[4] Metacritic gave the film a score of 27 based on 9 reviews, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[5]

The film grossed $35.7 million in the United States, becoming the 32nd highest-grossing film of 1987.[2]

DVD release[edit]

A bare-bones DVD edition of Summer School was released by Paramount Home Entertainment in 2004. This was followed by a special edition DVD, known as the "Life's a Beach Edition", which was released on May 22, 2007.[6]


Along with the special edition DVD release commemorating the twentieth anniversary of Summer School, many of the original cast were present for a reunion party. During an audience Q&A, Dean Cameron suggested that he would be open to a sequel or possibly even a remake of the original. When asked who he would cast as Chainsaw, he suggested Shia LaBeouf or Zach Braff.

In early 2012, Adam Sandler's production company Happy Madison Productions signed on for a remake.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d "Summer School (1987)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 2018-07-26.
  2. ^ a b Box Office Mojo (Summer School)
  3. ^ "Summer School (1987)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2021-08-16.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger (1987-07-22). "Summer School". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2011-06-05.
  5. ^ "Summer School Reviews". Metacritic.
  6. ^ Summer School (US - DVD R1) in News > Releases at DVDActive
  7. ^ Kit, Borys (2 April 2012). "Adam Sandler's Happy Madison to Produce 'Summer School' Remake (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2 April 2012.

External links[edit]