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  Corvette Summer Cars And Girls
Year: 1978
Director: Matthew Robbins
Stars: Mark Hamill, Annie Potts, Eugene Roche, William Bryant, Richard McKenzie, Kim Milford, Philip Bruns, Danny Bonaduce, Albert Insinnia, Jane A. Johnston, Stanley Kamel, Clifford A. Pellow, Jason Ronard, Brion James, Morgan Upton, Dick Miller
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Action, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Kenny Dantley (Mark Hamill) is in his final year of high school and nothing means more to him in life than cars. At a car junkyard he notices a Corvette Stingray is about to be scrapped, and frantically tries to alert the workers there to the fact: this is a great vehicle in his opinion, a truly American sports car and he only just manages to stop the crushing machine before it ruins his chances of claiming it for his own. He persuades the mechanics garage of the school to take it on, whereupon he works on it day and night for weeks until it is restored to pristine condition, painted in candy apple red and adorned with flames licking the sides. Feeling fulfilled, Kenny doesn't realise that he's about to have his heart broken...

The movie Mark Hamill made after Star Wars shot him to fame was this, Corvette Summer, designed to cash in on his teen appeal, though before he had a chance to appear he had a car crash to get on with. This resulted in his face needing surgery, and by the time shooting began here he was looking noticeably different, though writer and director Matthew Robbins didn't invent a snowbeast to smash his star in the face during the opening five minutes to explain why Hamill's appearance had altered. Indeed, now he looked too old to be playing a high schooler, which meant he had to rely on his strength of acting to convey that youthful exuberance necessary for the character.

This was something any fan of the first Star Wars movie could tell you Hamill was most adept at, but Kenny has other similarities to Luke Skywalker in that they both long for better away from their boring lives, but don't see any way of escaping until fate intervenes and they take matters into their own hands. In the case of this, the turning point was when the Corvette is completed and their teacher Mr McGrath (Eugene Roche) takes a few students, including Kenny, out on the town, or at least through the streets of Los Angeles where they can stretch the vehicle's capabilities and generally show it off, since that's the kind of object of desire it is, the sort that makes you want to display it to other drivers. But evidently it attracts unwanted attention as well as admiration.

When the Stingray is stolen, Kenny is distraught and inconsolable; it has become his whole life and now a cruel twist has taken it away from him, so no matter that Mr McGrath tries to make him put things in perspective and accept the car has gone for good, the boy begins sticking up wanted posters and funnily enough, because the film would end twenty minutes in otherwise, a patron at the filling station he works in identifies it as a fancy car he had seen in Las Vegas. From this point you may be thinking we're getting a road movie as Kenny meets various eccentrics while hitchhiking to the gambling capital of the world, but there's really only one character who counts, and she is a van driver called Vanessa, played by Annie Potts best known from Ghostbusters.

Vanessa has an ambition to become a prostitute, which understandably Kenny thinks is an unfortunate one to harbour, though this links in with his personality trait of getting his priorities wrong so we can see they will be ideal for one another by and by. Then we're in Vegas - we can tell from all the neon - and he commences his search, though to say more would be to spoil a plot that perhaps goes on a little too long, and is more dramatic than you might have expected, but at least has an idea or two in its head. The main theme weighs up the value of the emotional worth over the financial, so the Corvette of the title means the former to Kenny and the latter to those who stole it, and when he tries to see the other point of view it simply leads to heartache. The good news is that Vanessa is an improving influence on him and vice versa, only there are still life lessons to be learned and those last up to the end credits. Although there are fine car chase scenes, they were surprisingly not the be all and end all of the movie, and if it's too self-serious, it passed the time amiably. Music by Craig Safan.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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