June 17, 2019

CORVETTE SUMMER: Silliness from the '70s

Starring Mark Hamill, Annie Potts, Eugene Roche, Kim Milford, Richard McKenzie, Danny Bonaduce, Brion James, Dick Miller. Directed by Matthew Robbins. (1978/104 min).

Review by Mr. Paws😼

My wife ventured into the room while I was reviewing this film, which I hadn’t seen since it played at the Southgate Quad way back in 1978. Upon noticing a very young Mark Hamill in the starring role, she sat and watched, chuckling at its antiquity, silly plot and Hamill’s goofy performance. Half-defending the film and half showing off, I occasionally provided context of the era in which it was released, to know real avail. She later concluded Corvette Summer was one of the dumbest movies she’d ever seen.

Really, Francie? You obviously haven’t seen Eat My Dust, have you?

That’s what I get for marrying an 80s’ girl weened on Dirty Dancing and Footloose. What she didn’t understand was movies like Corvette Summer were the Footlooses of the ‘70s: amiable, teen-centric fluff just rebellious enough to appeal to kids who’ve outgrown Walt Disney. Instead of dancing their troubles away, some of these ancient anti-heroes stuck it to the man by putting the pedal to the metal.

One too many midichlorians.
These movies weren’t meant to challenge the intellect or stand the test of time; they were made to relieve kids of their paper-route earnings. As such, Corvette Summer did its job just fine. A chief reason this particular film stood out – however briefly – among the plethora of motorporn permeating suburban multiplexes was the presence of Hamill in his first post-Star Wars role. At the time, it was assumed he’d be that film’s break-out star. That never happened, of course, but despite my wife’s cheeky assessment, it certainly wasn’t because of Corvette Summer.

Considering Hamill still looked like a socially awkward teenager at the time, Corvette Summer was actually the perfect vehicle for him (no pun intended). As car-obsessed Ken Dantley, he’s earnest, likable and often very funny. More importantly, he’s more-or-less convincing as a clueless high-schooler trying to recover the stolen Corvette he customized for a senior project. Not that the movie itself is an exercise in realism. In some ways, it’s every bit the preteen boys’ fantasy that Star Wars was. Only this time, our underdog hero gets the girl (a perky young Annie Potts) and she doesn’t later turn out to be his sister.

My wife was right about one thing. Corvette Summer is a supremely silly film and undoubtedly a product of a bygone era, but that’s part of its charm for viewers of a certain age. While it’ll never be mistaken for a masterpiece, revisiting the movie 40 years later was one of the more enjoyably nostalgic experiences I’ve had in a long time.


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