The gas tank is either half full or half empty depending on how you view CORVETTE SUMMER. One could justly call it forced in its humor, directionless, repetitive and overlong. Others will see a likable, innocent coming-of-age adventure. It depends on your mood and, more prominently, your aversion to ’70s cheese and ability to forgive silver screen shortcomings.
Kenny Dantley is a freshly-minted high school grad who has more time for cars than girls (he’s played by a distinctly non-high school aged Mark Hamill, but bear with us). To say he loves the blazing red Stingray he and his shop classmates restored doesn’t go far enough in describing the relationship. When the Corvette is swiped by evildoers, our hero swoops into action to track it down on the mean streets of Nevada, intent on ensuring that what was stolen and brought to Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas. He finds an unlikely ally in Vanessa (Annie Potts), an aspiring hooker with a heart of gold and an affinity for car-obsessed teenagers.
I have a special attachment to CORVETTE SUMMER. It was one of the first movies I saw late at night when I was 13 and allowed to stay home alone on the weekends while the folks went camping. TBS’s NITE FLIX (oh, how we miss NITE FLIX… so much better than RUSH HOUR 2 played thrice in a row) carried it at 2 a.m., and I had a blast. Recently, I rented it after all these years and found that while it wasn’t the masterpiece I remembered, it is amusing and at times quite absorbing, though it starts to lay more than rubber in the second half. Hamill and Potts are no George and Gracie, but they suffice, and the supporting cast, including Eugene Roche (as Mr. McGrath) and Kim Milford (the villainous Wayne Lowry), hold up their end of the bargain.
CORVETTE SUMMER has an awful reputation; it has even been mocked in MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATRE 3000 (as the characters mocked another film). I’m sure there are those who still blame it for the utter failure of Mark Hamill’s post-STAR WARS career. But it is what it is, an imperfect though fun ride back into the late ’70s. It’s recommended, but only for certain tastes in the mood for something different.