Spring Break
Starz / Anchor Bay // R // $14.98 // August 18, 2009
Review by Tyler Foster | posted August 12, 2009
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There's an episode of "Futurama" called "Mars University", where Fry re-enrolls at college on the red planet. I never liked the A-story involving a monkey with enhanced brainpower, but the B-story is a parody of 1980's college films, with Bender joining a frat house that goes to war with the dean and another frat of rich, sophisticated jerks. Even though the movie takes place on the beach instead of on campus, I definitely thought about that episode more than a few times watching Spring Break ("Rrrrrrooooboooot Hoooouuuuse!"). On the other hand, aside from a tired third act, there's a few charismatic cast members and one or two interesting ideas that stray from the formula.

"Nelson, wherever you look: skin, skin, skin," exclaims Adam (Perry Lang) as he and his friend Nelson (David Knell) arrive in Fort Lauderdale for the holiday, and for most of the running time, that's about all the plot there is. The only thing keeping the movie from passing out in a closet is a remarkably simple twist on the age-old teen movie archetypes. When Nelson and Adam arrive at the hotel, they eventually discover their room has been double-booked with strangers Stu (Paul Land) and O.T. (Steve Bassett, who looks remarkably like a young Josh Brolin), but instead of some sort of lame standoff between our nerdy heroes and the jock-like intruders, the four hang out all week. I can't think of the last time I saw a movie where the main characters made new, legit friends (unless it was the focus of the plot), and it'd be even harder to come up with one where the new acquaintances weren't cut from the same cloth. Frankly, given this idea alone, I'm surprised nobody's tried to remake this movie yet.

The movie meanders for awhile as the group bonds, participating in dive contests, checking out girls, and getting drunk. Soon after, the movie's dull, uninteresting plot is introduced: Nelson has ditched working for his step-father Ernest Dalby (Donald Symington) on his campaign for the Senate. Ernest gets a gander at Nelson and Adam out partying in a photo in the paper, and drives his boat over to the area to try and get Nelson back. He assigns two henchmen (John Archie and Robert Small, literally credited as "Dalby's Henchmen" on IMDb) and a doughy weasel named Eddie (Richard B. Schull) to track Nelson down. I wasn't clear on exactly what Eddie's job was; he does everything that Dalby tells him to, but he's not really a right-hand man. One thing he does is to try to shut down the same motel that Nelson and Adam are staying at. Other than fun being Mr. Dalby's arch-nemesis, I wasn't sure why, but "Rocketdog2000" of the DVDTalk forums informs me that Eddie wants to steal the hotel for himself, away from his sister-in-law Geri (Jessica James). Either way, he lumbers along, looking unhappy, like one should expect of a teen-movie villain, getting defeated in wacky ways by those darn kids! Not the steering wheel! (wa wa waaaaa...)

At least three of the guys find and successfully woo a girl. O.T. catches the attention of rock 'n roller Joan (Corinne Alphen, who, I am informed by the DVD cover, was 1982's Penthouse Pet of the Year). The movie is obviously geared towards a certain audience, but Cunningham seems only mildly interested in his film's cheap thrills. There is an early scene where O.T. and Stu bring a pair of one-night-stands back to the shared hotel room, and a wet T-shirt contest (with girls AND guys!), but the real spotlight is pointed at Alpren, who puts on a couple of enthusiastic rock shows that are practically like music videos the film stops to make room for. They're sexy rather than sleazy, and O.T.'s interest in Joan is earnest and amusing. The same goes for the playful bonding between Nelson and Suzie (Jayne Modean), who he bonds with over Galaga. Adam is less interesting, mainly because Perry Lang is all over the map, and the movie seems uninterested in Stu, who basically gets ignored.

As early as the second half of the second act, the number of contrivances designed to hurt and help our characters begins to pile up. Nelson gets thrown out of a hotel (were hotels in the 1980's really adamantly against hookups?) and encounters an alligator. Characters are kidnapped and must be rescued, ragtag groups of people bond and fight against The Man, and various problems are solved using cream pies and life preservers (if only that worked in real life). In fact, I'm afraid to report that one character might even be meant to Learn Something About Life. Not that it matters. The real spring break is two things: an ideal and an experience. This is just a movie, and it's 26 years old. As long as you're looking for a bit of nostalgia and not either of the things the real deal might have been, the movie will probably fit the bill.

Spring Break is adorned with its original poster artwork of our four leads raising a flag on a woman's hip Iwo Jima style (clever, but that seems like it'd be painful), and a back cover that doesn't have any second thoughts about selling the movie in the most exploitative way possible (there's a quote from Mr. Skin!). It comes in a white Amaray case with no insert, and the disc has red painted logos on it on top of the silver disc surface. Aside from the slightly crass back cover, I really like the overall look of this DVD. For some reason, it really seems like the modern equivalent of the worn 1980's VHS boxes that used to line the racks at your local video store, which in turn encapsulates the majority of the audience for this movie. Side note: I noticed that Corinne Alpren's name is misspelled once, and the summary points out that Jeff Garlin is in this movie somewhere. He wasn't memorable enough to get his name in the closing credits (IMDb says he plays "Gut Gut"), so wherever he is, I doubt he's on screen for more than a couple of minutes, if that.

My DVD also came with a fuzzy blue wristband with the movie's logo on it, but it was inside the shipping box and not under the packaging, so I'm not sure if this little extra will be included with the DVD or not.

UPDATE (8/13/09): I am informed by Anchor Bay's Maria Kay (or Mariakay, I'm not sure) that the wristband doesn't come with the DVD, and by Jeff Garlin himself that he is the other diver in the dive competition that O.T. competes in. You learn something new every day!

The Video and Audio
Spring Break gets a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation thanks to Anchor Bay. Opening with the 1980's Columbia Pictures logo, the image has a light sheen of grain on it that can be seen on solid colors like the sunny blue Ft. Lauderdale skies, constant but unintrusive speckles of print damage, and yellowing 80's color. Overall, the image often looks sharper than I would have expected, with a fair amount of foreground and background detail given the age of the movie. Fans will probably be pretty pleased with the way the DVD looks. A mono track is included, and it's pretty much the same deal. It's not on the cutting edge of film audio, but it gets the job done with clear dialogue and lots of twenty-year-old tunes. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are provided.

The Extras
Sorry, the party ends with the movie. Only the original theatrical trailer (1:58) is included. Automatic trailers for American High School, Strike and Virgin Territory play when you pop the DVD in your player.

UPDATE (9/10/09): Or not! Star David Knell has taken it upon himself to assemble his co-stars Perry Lang and Jayne Modean (plus scratchy phone calls with special guest stars Steve Bassett and Jeff Garlin) for a commentary track, which you can buy at the actor's official website (supposedly it will also be hitting Rifftrax at some point or another). It's a friendly, informal chat with plenty of interesting details about the shoot (Porky's II was filming simultaneously!) that should please fans. If you're a Spring Break lover and you're disappointed with the lack of extras on this release, it's well worth the four bucks to download and easy to sync up with the DVD (and I promise I'm not just saying that because Garlin mentions this very review during his short phone call).

Established fans of Spring Break will probably have more of a blast revisiting the movie on DVD than newcomers will. If this was one that was near and dear to you during your adolescent development, then by all means, blow up a beach ball, pour yourself a margarita, and enjoy. If not, you should probably rent it if you want to give it a spin, although the $9.99 price point most retailers will have for it isn't bad.

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