Movie review: ‘Corvette Summer’

OK, I have to say that the $2.19 I spent on amazon.com to watch “Corvette Summer” is my biggest waste of money in the past 10 years. It is a horrible film. It’s impossible to even think of this even as just a mindless way to spend nearly two hours without having to think. It’s so bad that your mind recoils in horror thinking at any one moment that the past moment was bad; the current one is worse; and there’s nothing to look forward to except worse acting. Young stars and a bit of creativity were available to the director, but the filmmakers fumbled on even the easiest plays. Don’t make the mistake I did … don’t watch this one. Oh, and if my review isn’t enough to tell you how low “Corvette Summer” can go, just remember that Danny Bonaduce is in it.

‘Corvette Summer’
(1978; 105 minutes; rated PG; directed by Matthew Robbins and starring Mark Hamill, Annie Potts and Eugene Roche)

SIMPLY THE DEFINITION OF BAD

(NOTE: I updated this review by updating links on Dec. 9, 2017. I expanded the review with more opinion and trivia and updated links again on June 5, 2018.)

While “summer movies” don’t have to worry about having to achieve any level of drama anywhere near the equivalent of being an Academy Award winner, they do have to worry about being somewhat entertaining. “Summer School” is one film that meets the requirement of that mediocre benchmark (click here for my review).

(CLICK HERE FOR ALL MY MOVIE REVIEWS)

Since summer movies don’t go far with good acting and the director is usually just slapping something together to rake in a few bucks from the vacation crowd, I have to note that “Corvette Summer” doesn’t manage in any way to entertain and was (and remains) a worthless supposedly summer getaway film as it has its 40th anniversary in June 2018.

The tiny kernel of creativity – a good summer-movie plot and two interesting young actors – goes absolutely nowhere and leaves you wondering why you spent any money on it … much less your time. “Corvette Summer” manages to drop stereotypes to a new low and the only good thing you might be able to say about it is that it doesn’t denigrate or offend any particular cultural group in an incompetent effort to earn a laugh.

All of the negatives are too bad since “Corvette Summer” has Mark Hamill in his first film after his career-defining role as “Luke Skywalker” in “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” plus the delightful Annie Potts in her first motion picture after two TV roles. Although Hamill as of this writing has 272 acting credits in his incredibly prolific career, you’ll note that he peaked with the initial “Star Wars” and “Corvette Summer” was the beginning of his end. Potts would go on to better, especially on TV’s “Designing Women,” and luckily she escaped this one with her career only slightly singed.

Corvette Summer” is the story of a high school and car-buff teen (Hamill as “Kenneth W. ‘Kenny’ Dantley Jr.”), who helps build a magnificent custom Corvette as part of his senior class project for advanced auto shop. The car is stolen while the class has it standing out on the cruising streets of Southern California. Hamill then sets of on a quest to find it and return it to the school (see – a story with potential thrown under the bus of lack-of-creativity).

After hearing the car is in Las Vegas, Hamill sets off on the road and hooks up with Potts, who plays “Vanessa” but whose name is really “Eleanor.” She’s a hooker wannabe on her way to Vegas, too, and the two (of course) find each other.

After a bunch of blah, blah, blah scenes and blah, blah, blah plot development, Hamill uncovers the car’s big secret (and I’m doing you a favor by spoiling this one): it has been stolen by an auto theft ring headed by a former student from Hamill’s school and assisted by his favorite shop teacher.

Everything works out well in the end but the bad filmmaking continues right into the credits. It’s so bad that Potts is left walking away from the car in a school courtyard while wearing a wetsuit – at least she lost her swim fins in a Vegas casino. The only ending bright spot is that you see she has changed into normal clothes as credits roll. Personally, I was concerned that her character would go through the rest of her life wearing the wetsuit (and with this filmmaking group, they probably thought so …).

Here’s a rundown of some of the primary cast:

  • I’m sure everyone associated with this film wanted the same earnestness from Hamill that he displayed in his “Star Wars” debut. What happened is that they either didn’t know how to get it out of him or, even if they had managed, didn’t know what to do with it. Hamill forces too much of an absolutely shallow character but does manage a few (very brief) moments of competence. Moments. Just moments. Very, very few of them. Most of his effort is overdrawn and over-acted (I still shudder thinking about his singing after losing his virginity). Hamill has recently been in “Kingsman: The Secret Service” (click here for my review) and has a resume packed with dozens of roles in TV movies.
  • Golden Globe nominee (yes, for this stinker) Potts is given even less to work with than Hamill, but her character had potentially the most charm. She’s almost forced into over-acting to keep pace with Hamill and she just isn’t very good here. She, too, showed some moments (just moments, remember) of competence but they drowned along with the rest of her effort in this film. Potts was actually nominated for a Golden Globe for her work in “Corvette Summer” – for best debut in film (really?) – but I’m sure the Globes wanted it back the moment it actually watched her in the film. She was nominated (rightly so) for her work on “Designing Women” and has voiced “Bo Peep” in the “Toy Story” franchise and did a good job in an episode of “Two and a Half Men” (before Charlie Sheen got fired and the talentless hack Ashton Kutcher arrived).
  • The lone actual glimmer of acting hope is given by Eugene Roche, who plays the wonderful shop teacher “Ed McGrath” but turns out to having been on the bad guy’s side all along. Roche, who was great as “Pinky Peterson” on TV’s “All in the Family,” manages to convey some emotion that isn’t wrapped with a wooden delivery and also did TV’s “Webster” and was in “Foul Play” with Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn the same year as “Corvette Summer” (click here for my review). Roche died of a heart attack at age 75 in 2004.
  • Danny Bonaduce plays “Kootz” here and doesn’t do … well, anything with the role. He’s made a career by being part of TV’s “Partridge Family” and I really don’t care what else he’s done – except that he’s OK on TruTV’s video clip series “World’s Dumbest” along with other has-beens such as Todd Bridges and Tonya Harding. Oh, he did OK, too, on a great episode of TV’s “Monk” called “ Monk Meets the Playboy.”

That’s it. There are no other actors working here worth mentioning and I believe none would appreciate bringing their name up in conjunction with this basket of rotted fish.

It’s easy to see from the outcome that Matthew Robbins was in his first directing role here. He’s go on to do “Dragonslayer” and “The Legend of Billie Jean.” Enough said, although I will note he is co-writer with a guy who is in his first-ever role as a producer with “Corvette Summer.” Gee, why’s that not a surprise?

Corvette Summer” was outside of the Top Ten grossing films in 1978 but did take in overall $36.4 million and was made on a $9 million budget, according to Wiki. Here’s what I wrote in another review about 1978 … the No. 1 film of the year was “Grease” with $159.9 million, according to Wiki, while the spectacularly funny “National Lampoon’s Animal House” was third with $120 million.

My favorite in the Top 10 was Burt Reynolds in “Hooper” and it was sixth with $78 million (click here for my review). The absolute best movie of the year was the 10th ranked film: the sledgehammer of emotion called “The Deer Hunter” with $48.9 million. Here are the other films from 1978 that I’ve reviewed:

Assorted cast and film notes (via IMDb.com):

  • Both Hamill and Potts were injured in vehicle crashes prior to the filming of “Corvette Summer.” Hamill reportedly suffered a broken nose while Potts’ injuries required her to get a pin in one of her legs.
  • Directly from IMDb.com: “A cameo with Fran Drescher was deleted. Drescher can be seen with Mark Hamill in one of the stills from the movie.”
  • Finally and directly from IMDb.com: “The Corvette car was a 1973 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray converted to right hand drive so that Mark Hamill could hang out of the curbside window looking at the ladies. The car was also painted candy apple / cherry, given superior mags, a clam-shell hood, Gabriel shocks, Merry tubes, a metal flake, side-pipes, and flames painted on the body.”

© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2015, 2017, 2018.
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