The Movies of Summer - 1992
Is 92 the summer for you?
Welcome back! I continue my look back at summer movies of the past with this look at the summer of 1992. This is mainly remembered as the summer of the Barcelona Olympics. However, this was the year that Batman returned, people who never watched MTV learned who Pauly Shore was, and Tom Hanks taught us that there was no crying in Baseball.
For me personally, the summer of 92 was kind of a life-changing one, and not exactly in a happy way. This was the summer that my mom and dad divorced, not only dividing my family, but also putting me in a tight spot emotionally. I was about a month away from turning 15 when I found out. It was already a confusing time for me, and then I had this dropped on me. The other major event to happen was that I had finished middle school that year, would be starting high school in the fall, and was hoping that things would go better for me than it did back in middle school. (Spoiler alert: It didn't, at least not at first.)
So, with all that crap hitting me hard personally, I naturally looked for a lot of ways to escape or be out of the house that summer. Naturally, movies provided the perfect answer. Saw quite a few of them that summer, so let's stop wasting time, and look at some of the blockbusters (and wannabe blockbusters) of 1992.
LETHAL WEAPON 3
RELEASED: MAY 15
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Murtaugh (Danny Glover) are back, and this time they're going after a crooked cop who's gotten into the arms dealing business. There's a love interest for Riggs this time around, with a pretty and tough policewoman played by Rene Russo, and Joe Pesci's comic relief character from the last movie also comes back with an expanded role, which comes across like a desperate attempt to shoehorn in a popular character here, as he doesn't have much to do with the plot.
WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: My dad took me to see this movie just about two weeks before the big "announcement" happened, so this ended up being one of the last movies I got to see with him. If he knew what was coming (and he most likely did), he didn't show it to me that day, as we both had a lot of fun watching this one. I had enjoyed the first two movies (which I had watched on video with him), and while I didn't think it was as good as the first two, it was still entertaining. I remember hoping for a 4th film after it was over. I would have to wait until 1998 for that, though.
WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: Having had a marathon of all four films, I find this one to be the point where the series started to show a bit of wear. My main problem is that this movie emphasizes humor over the action. The first two films had a good mix of both elements, but this one almost seems to be trying to be a straight-out comedy, with Gibson and Glover constantly cracking wise, even when their lives are in danger, or they're in a gun shootout. The movie almost comes across as a sitcom at times, and I think it cheapens the returning characters. It's not unwatchable, but it's definitely the weakest of the series to me.
RELEASED: MAY 22
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: Pauly Shore of MTV fame made his "acting" debut with this goofy teen comedy. Shore and former-Goonie/future-Hobbit, Sean Astin, play best friends who, while digging up the backyard to build a swimming pool, uncover a caveman frozen in a hunk of ice. The caveman (Brendan Fraser) is thawed out by the two friends, and they start teaching him about living in the 90s, and passing him off at school as their new friend. A lot of stupid shenanigans happen, and Pauly Shore somehow got a film career out of this.
WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: I come back to school after Memorial Day weekend, and all the kids were talking about this Encino Man movie, and how hilarious Pauly Shore was in it. I had known about the movie, but didn't see it over the weekend, as everyone else apparently did. I also had no idea who Pauly Shore was. Despite watching MTV back in the day, I was somehow fortunate enough to miss his presence. So, the following weekend, I went to see this movie to see what all the kids were talking about, and I remember thinking how dumb and unfunny it was. I did not like Shore, I found the jokes lame, and the movie just came across as desperate and dumb to me. At the very least, this movie taught me not to take movie recommendations from certain kids.
WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: Yeah, the movie is harmless early 90s junk. It's not even that I found this movie hard to sit through again, like the Problem Child films. It actually has this kind of low energy to it, like the cast isn't trying very hard. It wants to be wild, crazy and stupid, but the energy and the laughs just aren't there. Unless you grew up on this movie and have some kind of odd nostalgia for it, I can't see this movie entertaining any audience today. It's dated, it's slow, and it just kind of exists to steal 90 minutes of anyone who watches it.
RELEASED: MAY 29
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: Whoopi Goldberg plays an unsuccessful lounge singer who happens to witness a mob hit pulled off by her gangster boyfriend (Harvey Keitel). Now her boyfriend and his goons are aiming to kill her for witnessing the murder. She goes to the police, who place her in hiding in a convent, posing as a nun, until she can testify against the killers. While hiding in the convent, she joins the nun choir, which is one of the worst in the world, and teaches them not only how to sing, but also to rock out to hit music of the 1960s, as nuns are known to do.
WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: Whoopi was still riding high off of her success with Ghost two years earlier, and this became another huge hit for her. The movie had a fun ad campaign, mostly focusing on the singing nun choir, and it got a lot of attention. When i saw it, I remember finding the movie to be a lot of fun. I don't think there was any one aspect that stood out to me. I remember enjoying it on a fun, escapism level, which is what I needed around this time. It was never anything great, but it provided enough laughs.
WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: I hadn't watched this movie since seeing it in the theater, so I was actually looking forward to catching up with the film. How does it hold up? Well, much like Encino Man, this is a harmless movie that's very buried in the time it was released. At least it's more energetic than Encino Man is, but that doesn't mean it's all that great. There are a couple funny lines, and it's always great to see current Downton Abbey star, Maggie Smith, who plays the Mother Superior here. But, this movie just comes across as being very cheesy to me today. It's dated, it's silly, and it just doesn't hold up as well as I remember. It's not terrible, but it's nothing worth reconnecting with.
RELEASED: JUNE 19
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: Michael Keaton steps back into the boots of the Dark Knight, this time to save Gotham City from a double threat. Not only has a mysterious mutant half-man/half penguin being (Danny Devito) recently crawled out of the sewers to cause trouble, but a meek and shy secretary (Michelle Pfeiffer) is pushed out a window by her evil corporate boss (Christopher Walken), is revived by some alley cats, and becomes the Catwoman. With violent mutants dwelling in the sewers, evil circus gangs, and armies of penguins armed with rockets strapped to their backs, it's easy to see that director Tim Burton had more creative control over this movie. With a darker and weirder tone than even the first movie, this became a PR nightmare for both the studio, and the McDonald's corporation when they tried to market Happy Meals off of the film.
WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: This was the summer movie everyone was waiting for that year, and while I remember a lot of people being disappointed with it, I personally loved it at the time. I remember finding it to be funnier and just plain weirder than the original. There was just something so weird about this movie, it really appealed to me. Of course, what I remember the most was the controversy it caused, when parents started complaining about McDonald's selling Happy Meals based on such a dark and violent film. With its bizarre sexual innuendo humor, violence, and an overall bleaker tone than the first movie, this really divided audiences. And while the movie was still successful, the studio got nervous about the response to how dark and twisted it was, and decided to go in a lighter direction with the next Batman movie. This would bring us to the Joel Schumacher era in a few years, but we'll get to that in 1995.
WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: You know what, I still love this movie. Is it the best Batman movie? Of course not. But I just admire how it just goes all out, and becomes a bizarre hybrid of a depressing art film, a summer blockbuster, and a bizarre black comedy. The movie is constantly shifting tones, but for some reason, it works for me. I really do admire the filmmakers for trying to make a different movie from the first. They could have easily have played it safe, and just repeated the 1989 movie. But this movie really goes out on a limb with its weirdness, and while it's not always successful, I always find myself having fun when I watch this. It's weird, it's off-kilter, and it had no right being marketed to kids. But you know what? I still like it.
Just for fun, here is the old Batman Returns Happy Meal ad...
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
RELEASED: JULY 1
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: It's World War II, and with many of the young men being drafted to fight, the professional baseball league has to create the first female professional league. Tom Hanks plays a former pro, now angry drunk, who is picked to coach the team. But the real story revolves around two sisters playing on the team, played by Geena Davis and Lori Petty. A rivalry grows between them both on the baseball diamond, and in real life, which may split them apart.
WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: I actually saw this the weekend before the movie came out, as back then, certain movies would have advance screenings in order to build word of mouth. Not many movies do this anymore, and I kind of miss it. Anyway, I remember taking my mom to see this, because she needed to get out of the house after what had been happening during the summer, and I knew it would appeal to her. In the end, she enjoyed it greatly, and I ended up liking it just as much. It was a very fun movie with great characters, and a good mix of humor and drama. Plus, I had never known that there had been a professional female league in baseball, so I enjoyed learning about that.
WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: Not much has changed. This is a sweet, and kind of heart-tugging film that has a lot of affection for its characters. This is a highly emotional film, and you wind up really caring for the characters. It's a wonderful mix of light drama and even lighter comedy, and it really is easy to see why this movie was such a big hit back in the day. It's a fun movie to catch up with, and it's held up incredibly well. If you haven't watched this in a while like I had, this is one to track down.
RELEASED: JULY 10
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: Famed underground cartoonist, Ralph Bakshi, brings us this confusing and almost incoherent film that mixes live action and animation. Jack Deebs (Gabriel Byrne) is a cartoonist who draws a comic book about a gritty cartoon world known as the Cool World. He learns that the world is real when a sexy cartoon character (or "Doodles" as they're called in this movie) named Holli Would (Kim Basinger) pulls him into her animated world. She wants to have sex with Jack, because that will somehow turn her into a human, and Holli wants to cross over to the human world so she can find the Spike of Power that has the ability to merge the Cool World and the human world. There's also a human detective living in the Cool World (Brad Pitt) who is trying to prevent Holli from crossing over to the human world, because it would somehow cause the destruction of both the cartoon and human world. Sound confusing? That's okay, it doesn't make much sense within the context of the film itself.
WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: As I've mentioned before, I review movies for a blog. This means I have sat through a lot of movies so bad, I really wanted to flee from the theater, but kept my butt in the seat in order to craft a review afterward. When I think back on my first experience of a movie like this, I think of Cool World. At the time, I thought it was the worst movie I had ever seen. The plot and script made no sense, there were huge plot and logic holes (Why does the Brad Pitt character not age in the film, considering he was warped into the Cool World in 1942, yet he looks the same in 1992?), it was loud and obnoxious, and the script just seemed to be making stuff up as it went along. This movie just made absolutely no sense whatsoever, and it doesn't even try to explain itself. The movie isn't even technically well made, since the actors and cartoon characters never convincingly look like they're in the same place. The only good part about the movie are some interesting artwork, which mixes different animation styles. But considering that everything else is wrong about this movie, that doesn't mean much.
WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: Catching up with this movie was painful. It's just as awful and incoherent as I remember it being. However, at least I learned some interesting history behind it due to the magic of the Internet. Apparently, Bakshi's original script was completely different from the movie we got, and was more of a dark horror film. The film's producer (who had done the Friday the 13th films) did not want to do another horror movie, so he had the script completely changed without telling the director. Most of the time, the movie had no script, and the animators were just drawing whatever they wanted. That explains why this movie is so random and makes no damn sense at any time. Nobody knew what kind of movie they were making - Not the actors, not the director, and not the animators. It all ends in total disaster. The soundtrack (featuring a lot of early 90s techno music) has gotten a lot of acclaim, with many saying it's better than the movie itself. Other than that, it's hard to find anything positive to say about this mess.
HONEY, I BLEW UP THE KID
RELEASED: JULY 17
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: In this sequel to 1989's Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, wacky inventor Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis) once again finds himself accidentally endangering his kids in the name of science. This time, his invention manages to turn his toddler son into a towering giant, who grows to Godzilla size, and starts terrorizing Las Vegas.
WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: The original film was a childhood favorite, but this movie just didn't really do much for me. I remember finding it to be kind of boring, and just not that funny. You would think a giant toddler stomping through Vegas would be interesting, but somehow the filmmakers found a way to make it dull. The movie just wasn't very funny or memorable, and considering that most people I've spoken to don't even seem to remember that there was a sequel, I don't think I'm the only one who thinks so.
WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: Wow, is this a bland movie. Okay, so the original movie doesn't quite hold up as an adult, except in a nostalgic sense. But this movie just comes across as completely forgettable. The first movie had fun effects, but for some reason, the effects don't seem quite as good here. This is one of those sequels that didn't need to be made, and exists simply because the first one made money.
DEATH BECOMES HER
RELEASED: JULY 31
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: An unhappily married aging woman (Meryl Streep) is obsessed with staying young, and happens to find a potion that will not only make her look young forever, but also make her immortal. When her estranged husband (Bruce Willis) pushes her down the stairs and seemingly kills her, she comes back up again, her neck twisted completely around. As it turns out, the rival for her husband's affections (Goldie Hawn) has also taken the same potion, and when the two women try to off each other, they simply cannot die, even if they blow holes in their stomach with a shotgun, or bash their heads in with a shovel. It turns into an all out brawl between the two women, with the confused husband trapped in the middle.
WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: I remember finding this movie to be both hilarious and a technical marvel, as the film showed off some really impressive CG and green screen effects with the way the two women's bodies would just get mangled and destroyed during the course of the movie, yet they could not die, so they were still moving around. It sounds morbid, but the movie had a really silly and over the top tone that I really enjoyed at the time. It was also nice to see Bruce Willis in a different kind of role, playing a kind of nerdy guy who is dominated and controlled by these two women. Streep and Hawn were clearly having a great time making this movie, and shows in their over the top performances.
WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: Catching up with this movie, I realize that this is basically a very long special effects demo, and not that deep of a film. Still, the cast makes this movie a lot of fun. Streep and Hawn are so hilariously evil as they go at each other and manipulate the Willis character, and again, it's great to see Willis playing this guy who has no idea what the heck is going on, and doesn't know how to respond to what's happening to these women. This easily could have been a one-joke movie, but the cast makes it work, and the effects are still fun, if not dated.
RELEASED: AUGUST 14
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: Roy Knable (John Ritter) is a father, family man and couch potato obsessed with TV. He gets more than he bargained for when he makes a deal with a mysterious businessman (Jeffrey Jones) who offers him a TV unlike any other. The businessman turns out to be affiliated with Satan, and the TV itself is actually a trap which sucks Roy and his wife (Pam Dawber) inside. The couple have to survive a variety of literally hellish TV programs if they want to escape the TV universe. If they fail, their souls will be lost forever.
WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: While I never thought this was a great movie, I do remember finding a lot of the TV parodies that the characters find themselves in quite funny. My favorite segment was the animated sequence (which was directed by Chuck Jones), with the couple find themselves as cartoon mice trapped in a house with a heavily-armed robot cat. There are also game shows, sitcoms (with a clever nod to Ritter's past on Three's Company), and even a zombie version of Saturday Night Live (Saturday Night Dead) with an undead Wayne and Garth. This was obviously a silly movie, but I remember liking it at the time.
WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: Having not seen it in over 20 years, I was curious about this one. Bottom line, it has not held up well. Some of the TV parodies are still cute, and I still enjoy the cartoon sequence (it's the best part of the movie), but it's nowhere near as funny as I remember it being. It doesn't help that a lot of the parody in this movie is extremely dated, and a product of its time. This somewhat hurts the film, and makes it feel like it would have been funny back in 92, but now just seems kind of forced. If the filmmakers had gone after more reliable TV targets, instead of just stuff that was popular at the time, it would have held up better. As it is, the movie is really just an odd curiosity that's worth the odd chuckle or two, but not much more than that.
HONEYMOON IN VEGAS
RELEASED: AUGUST 28
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: This wacky romantic comedy follows a young couple (Nicholas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker) going to Vegas to tie the knot, only to run into complications when the guy winds up losing all of his money to an old time Vegas mobster and card shark (James Caan). The mobster offers a bizarre way to pay off the debt - Let him spend a weekend alone with the man's fiance. The man agrees at first, but quickly figures out that he's been conned, and the old shark is trying to woo his fiance. So, he begins a madcap chase to track his woman down, culminating with him diving out of a plane over Vegas with a group of parachuting Elvis impersonators.
WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: This was another movie I saw with my mom that summer, and I remember we both loved it. The movie had a certain madcap energy to it that made it seem more like a chase movie, than a standard romantic comedy, which made it stand out. This was also back in the day when Nicholas Cage was a respected actor, rather than the joke that he is now. I remember being a fan at the time (was a huge fan of Raising Arizona), so I enjoyed watching his performance. Also loved the "Flying Elvises" climax. This movie was just a lot of fun to me.
WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: While it hasn't held up completely well, it still has some very funny moments, and serves as a reminder that there was a time when Cage didn't just take any project that came his way. The movie still has a lot of fast-paced charm, but it also has some moments that don't work quite as well, such as when Cage is palling around with an aging Hawaiian hippie played by Peter Boyle. This sequence, which goes on too long, just slows the film down. Still, there is enjoyment to be had here, even if I don't find it as funny as I used to.
And that will wrap up the summer movies I saw in 1992! Overall, not a bad line up, aside from some stinkers here and there. The summer of 1993 is coming up, and it's one I'm looking forward to reflecting back on, so I will see you all then.
Until next time, retro fans, keep the past alive.
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