Built for Fun
By Michael Gose
Indisputably my all-time favorite summer movie is April Love, starring longtime Pepperdine friend Pat Boone.
In 1958 my favorite radio station presented “The Battle of the Crooners.” Each Sunday right after church, I would check to see who won. It was usually Elvis Presley, but sometimes it would be Ricky nelson, and on a great day, it would be Pat Boone. The same Pat Boone who had visited my Church of Christ in Jacksonville, Florida, one Sunday in 1956 or 1957.
So when April Love came to town, not only was the movie great fun—a quality that I especially associate with summer movies—but it had such cachet with our church group that I was able to see it three times in 10 days. To see a film that many times in that short a period of time...it had to be summer.
Each year I expect to reexperience that fun, that joy of a favorite movie. Usually my summer movies of choice have great kinetic energy: Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Batman, Die Hard. Such summer movies tend to create the fun with plenty of action, heroic leads, and the capacity to capture one’s imagination. now that I am a grandfather, I am especially keen to share with my granddaughter remarkable “cartoons” like Cars, Toy Story, The Incredibles, Monsters Inc., and look forward to their sequels.
There are films that, at least for me, have the qualities of the summer’s best films, but that you might not have stumbled upon yet. One with much of the fun (and many of the same underriding values) of April Love is Bend It Like Beckham. Thinking of sports films, Sugar is one of my two all-time favorite baseball movies, and because it is about baseball, it qualifies as a summer movie, even though it is more serious than most.
Five international films have given me a similar sense of great fun as the American blockbuster summer hits. While each of these films has a similar sense of good and evil as a more innocent film like April Love, let me forewarn you that these films would definitely be R-rated in the U.S.
District B13 is a French film featuring impressive urban “gymnastics” stunts known as parkour. Raising Phoenix has somehow created stunts that have been described as “drunken break dancing in a martial arts form,” which is rather hilarious. While the level of “evil” in Tell No One, The Secret in Their Eyes, and the trilogy that includes The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, is otherwise off-putting, there is a level of pure cinematic fun in these films that I associate with summer movies (but not for the faint hearted).
Summer movies...even better with a friend!
Michael Gose (MA '75) is a professor of humanities at Seaver College. He specializes in Great Books and film studies, and taught his popular Sunday Night Film class for 20 years.