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Summer of ‘86: Better Off Demi: One Crazy Summer

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Summer of ‘86: Better Off Demi: <em>One Crazy Summer</em>

Remember when your mother used to tell you that, if you made faces and somebody hit you, your face might get stuck? Savage Steve Holland does, too, and in One Crazy Summer, he proves your mother right. Two mean little girls cruelly torment the jacked-up dog of the protagonist’s sister. They tease the poor creature, calling him ugly and making faces at him. Suddenly, the dog’s owner appears behind the girls, slapping them on their backs. As a result, not only do their faces get stuck in Quasimodo-like fashion, the grills of their Cabbage Patch Dolls get messed up too. As the girls scream and run off into the street, the driver of the car that nearly runs them over says “this town has some REALLY ugly kids!”

If this kind of humor is beneath you, and it probably is, then you will not like One Crazy Summer. Supremely silly and stupendously corny in equal measure, this pseudo-sequel to 1985’s sleeper, Better Off Dead, reunites John Cusack with Holland for a tale of teenage angst and the quest to find love. The quest takes Cusack’s character, Hoops, to Nantucket—home of that very limber guy from the limerick—where he gets involved with cute and funny bunnies, snobby preppies, insane mechanics, a killer dolphin with rabies, Count Floyd’s military brat son, and Cassandra, a hippie-ish singer about to lose her house to a very rich lobster restaurant magnate. If that weren’t enough, there’s also a boat race and a radio station contest on the island, both of which are paid way too much attention by scary looking men with bad hair.

Geez, where do I start? I know: The cute and fuzzy bunnies.

Hoops, like his director Savage Steve, is a cartoonist and a very bad basketball player (note the irony in the nickname). Depicting himself as a lovesick cartoon rhino, Hoops is tormented by his nemeses, the cute and fuzzy bunnies. While love tries to find Hoops (but can’t because love is literally blind), the C and F B’s beat him up and try to kill him. These violent cartoons prove that Hoops is psychotic, but since this is a comedy, you’ll just have to excuse him. Since two of the murderous wabbits look suspiciously like Siskel and Ebert, we’ll also have to excuse the director’s response to their pan of his prior picture.

Nantucket’s run-in with Hoops appears courtesy of his buddy, George Calamari (Joel Murray, Bill’s brother). George introduces Hoops to his insane mechanic friend Egg Stork and Egg’s brother, Clay. Egg is completely incoherent, a common feature of his portrayer, Bobcat Goldthwait. I think the only understandable lines Egg utters are “we’ve come for your daughters” and “welcome to the planet of the toes!” Hoops will need the Stork brothers’ help, as he is tortured on the island by the cute and scuzzy preppies, whose members include a pre-Entourage Jeremy Piven. They want to beat Hoops up for going on a date with their leader Teddy’s girlfriend. Hoops needs his ass beaten too—he took her to see a movie called Hemorrhoids from Hell at the Drive-In.

The rich Nantucket boys also want to beat Hoops up for protecting Cassandra, the singer he saves from former Oakland Raider, John Matuszak. Teddy’s dad wants to replace her house with a lobster restaurant. Hoops challenges Teddy and company to the annual boat race, winner takes house. Never mind that Hoops hates the water and the only boat they can procure keeps springing holes. It’s all for Cassandra, who turns One Crazy Summer into something you don’t see too often: A good Demi Moore movie. Demi is not only charming and endearing as the namesake of ancient Greece’s Miss Cleo, she also sings, and not too badly either. Her singing is eons better than Striptease, but nowhere near as good as GI Jane.

On the day of the race, Hoops, George, and the Storks are joined by Ack Ack, a military brat whose father, SCTV’s Joe Flaherty, must have really loved the comic strip Cathy. Joe wants Ack Ack to join the military, but he’s a pacifist. Said pacifist finds his inner Rambo, however, when Ari Gold cuts the tongue off Hoops’ boat mascot, a stuffed version of Garfield’s dog, Odie. That’s right! Avenge me, Ack Ack! And wait until Piven and company get a load of the motor on Hoops’ boat! It will look very familiar to Teddy.

Meanwhile, racing contestants must share the waters with a film crew and the mechanical star of Foam II, the sequel to the hit movie about a rabid dolphin chowing down on unsuspecting tourists. You know what they say: introduce a rabid, man-eating dolphin in the first act, and somebody’s gonna wind up in its mouth in the third. Somebody does.

Oh yeah, that radio contest: It’s run by Rich Little and listened to religiously by George’s uncle, an unshaven man so desperate to win the $1 million Rich promises that he accidentally electrocutes himself when he falls into the tub with his radio. Of COURSE he wins, and so does Hoops and company, but one of these victories doesn’t go as well as you’d expect.

You may think I’ve told you too much, but you’d be wrong. One Crazy Summer is 20% plot, 80% jokes and visual gags. Some of the latter are just horrible, but if I had shame, I’d be embarrassed to tell you how much I enjoy this movie and how hard I laugh whenever I watch it. It has zero redeeming value, but I still laugh at enough of the gags to hold a special place in my trash-loving heart for One Crazy Summer.

As a side note: The DVD of One Crazy Summer has commentary by its director. The track also features Curtis Armstrong and a very coherent Bob Goldthwait. I listened to it, and for the most part, it’s an incredible waste except for the few moments when the guys gossip like a bunch of teenage girls on the CW. Goldthwait takes special care to note how many of the people in One Crazy Summer are now dead, including William Hickey, who was fresh off an Oscar nomination for Prizzi’s Honor when he appeared in this picture. Imagine what Cusack and Moore could have done with this.

The Odienator graduated high school in 1986, and can be found awaiting his 25th High School Reunion at Big Media Vandalism and Tales of Odienary Madness.