Whenever I think back on my education, I often forget that I also took a film class while studying for my Master’s degree in Florida Studies. I will have to start giving reviews of those as I do not think there are any that I have addressed on The Legionnaire. I got to thinking about this as I was getting to the final few miles of my near marathon run on Sunday. Specifically, I passed by one of the locations used in the filming of Summer Rental (1985). This comes to mind whenever I am traveling through this area, but it occurred to me this time to write about it. Of the films we saw that semester, this one stands out as the main character, Jack Chester (John Candy), sports a Stan Mikita Chicago Blackhawks sweater. This fooled my memory into thinking that the Chesters come to Florida from Chicago (it is actually Atlanta), but it is pretty cool nonetheless. It is also fun to see your current environs in a major motion picture.
Jack Chester is in need of a Summer Rental. One gets a sense of this from the beginning as he has trouble dealing with his family as he leaves for his job as an air traffic controller. Once there, the stress builds to the point where he is making near fatal mistakes, luckily catching them before serious midair crashes occur. He is a dedicated employee, which is why his boss does not fire him. Instead, he is told that he must go on vacation. To help with this, his boss arranges for a beachside rental home (hence the title) in which they will stay in the fictional city of Citrus Cove, Florida. It is actually an amalgamation of locations along the Pinellas County Gulf Coast, including a scene where they drive over John’s Pass, which is right around the corner from my house! I digress. The rest of the family is thrilled to be there, but Jack brings his stress with him. Not even the fancy house they arrive at can make him fully relax. This spills over into their dinner that night. After waiting two hours for a table, they are cut off right before seating by Al Pellet (Richard Crenna) and his party. Adding to the effrontery, Al’s group take the last of the restaurant’s lobsters, which the Chesters had been eyeing while in line. Jack confronts Al, and Al quickly sizes up Jack for the out-of-towner that he is and rudely dismisses Jack as an interloper. Not only is Al a rich local, but he is the captain and owner of the Incisor. It is the boat that has won the Citrus Cove Regatta many years running. When the Chesters get home, they have one last problem to deal with: they are in the wrong house. They had the wrong address. They get to the right place, which is still directly on the beach, but quite the step down from where they had been. Jack fumbles through a few more days before he realizes a potential solution to his woes. Taking his son Bobby (Joey Lawrence), he decides he will teach him how to sail. The place he obtains a small boat with which to show his son the ropes (no pun intended) happens to be the restaurant they ended up after the lobster fiasco, Barnacles. Its owner and proprietor, Richard Scully (Rip Torn), is apparently a former pirate judging by his dress and the hook as has in place of a left hand. He offers Jack lessons to go along with the boat, but Jack wants to go out with his son alone. This results in him puncturing Al’s yacht, further enraging the Citrus Cove native, and hurting Jack’s leg in the process. While he is laid up with his injury, Jack’s wife Sandy (Karen Austin) takes the rest of the kids out to have fun on their vacation, something Jack seems incapable of, and she is assisted by a chance encounter with a gentleman at a movie theater. The movie does not know what to make of this because nothing comes of it, but whatever. Meanwhile, when Jack’s leg is better, he returns to the Barnacle in order to improve his sailing skills. It also helps to get him out of the house as he finds that he has some pretty strange neighbors. Things settle into a pattern until Jack receives word that their as yet unseen landlord has passed away. Arriving at the funeral home, he finds that title to his vacation rental has passed to Al. Given all the perceived insults at Jack’s hands, Al gives the Chesters until the end of the weekend to get out of the house. This news is taken very hard by the rest of the family. Seeing how downcast they are, Jack decides to make what seems to be a foolhardy bet. Finding Al, Jack wagers the rest of the cost of the rest of their stay that he can beat Al in the upcoming regatta. The ship Jack plans to do this with is provided by Scully, even if it is currently being used for restaurant purposes. With the help of Jack’s family, they get it into sailing shape. I am sure you can guess where this is going. They end up winning the regatta after dumping the food they forgot to take off the boat, and Jack using his pants to get the last bit of wind to nose ahead. The movie then abruptly ends because why not?
As I said in the introduction, it is fun to watch Summer Vacation to see the locations in which they shot, many of which I see on a daily basis. I have the same experience when I watch The Blues Brothers (1980), even if I do not currently live in Chicago. With Summer Rental, it is a little more immediate. There are also some interesting things it says about the sea that also can be applied to faith. Jack is clearly wound up tight, and as I understand it, this is not unusual for air traffic controllers. There is something to be said about the word “controller,” and the movie points it out, too, while Jack is getting his lessons from Scully. Scully tells the near greenhorn (look it up) that he cannot control the sea. One can only give over their will to where water and wind direct them. This is a handy way of looking at your relationship with God. Like a boat attempting to go against the gust is in danger of foundering, so too are our lives made all the more difficult by not following His directives. And when you have that line, you should do everything to take advantage of it. You can see this in the movie when Jack puts his pants aloft to get that little bit of extra speed. Yes, it is somewhat of a rude solution, but it speaks to the metaphor I am drawing.
I am guessing many of you probably have not heard of Summer Rental. That is understandable, though it is a fun little movie, even if you are not a resident of the beaches you see in it. There are some questionable encounters with the Chesters’ neighbors, particularly a woman who is too eager to show off her breasts and her husbands who seems cool with this behavior. Otherwise, it is okay.