For those of us who graduated from academia, summer is just another season, differentiated only by the weather and a slightly larger number of expensive action movies in the multiplex. But we still have those wonderful, deeply ingrained memories of lazier days, spent sleeping in and watching movies, going to the beach or playing sports, going to camp or – sadly – slinging burgers at a summer job.
Movies give us a fantastic way to revisit those memories: briefly, and skimming over the bland parts. This week on Now Streaming we’re taking a look at the five best summer-themed movies you can currently find on Netflix. Because you may not have two months off, but you do have two hours to remind yourself of the good ol’ days…
Addams Family Values (Watch It Now)
The second Addams Family movie is a triple threat: a summer movie, a Thanksgiving movie, and a great movie all at the same time. In Addams Family Values this clan of morbid but totally functional weirdos has just welcomed a new baby, Pubert (ew…), and a new nanny (Joan Cusack), who sets about seducing Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) and stealing the family fortune. To get rid of young Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman), she has them sent to summer camp, where they quickly become social outcasts, and gradually evolve into revolutionary leaders.
The centerpiece of Addams Family Values is the summer camp musical, a shockingly offensive retelling of the first Thanksgiving where the white people are condescending heroes. It’s the perfect opportunity for Wednesday and Pugsley to strike: they take over the stage and attack all the WASPS in attendance, and although the film isn’t explicit about it, the implication is that they murdered and ate all of the yuppies they were able to capture.
Anyone who ever had to spend their summer with people they absolutely hated, participating in activities that were of no interest whatsoever can relate to Addams Family Values. And sadly, that’s probably a lot of us…
Good Burger (Watch It Now)
Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell took their Nickelodeon sketch comedy act to the big screen with Good Burger, an innocent and silly kids flick about a teen who wrecks his teacher’s car on the last day of school and has to get a lousy summer job to pay off his debt. There he meets a Pee-wee Herman-esque wunderkind, with no social skills but an incredible secret sauce recipe, which becomes the envy of the evil corporate burger joint across the street.
People who have a lot of nostalgia for Good Burger may be surprised to discover that the film holds up rather well. It’s not one of those kids movies that’s packed full of jokes you’ll only get as adults, but it certainly is a kids movie with a good sense of humor. Kenan and Kel were already sharp comedians back in 1997, and although not every joke lands in Good Burger the film never lacks for energy. It’s a pleasant trip down memory lane that your own kids will probably enjoy too, whether or not you have them yet.
The Sandlot (Watch It Now)
Some kinds watched movies all summer. Others played sports. Both groups could probably agree that The Sandlot was an early 1990s classic, telling the tale of a ragtag group of misfits who play baseball throughout the summer of 1962, winning games and losing games and building up a shared history that would soon become legendary.
It’s one of those films, like Stand By Me before it, that tells kids that the mid-20th century was the best time to be a kid. It makes a good case, dramatizing a world of sunny skies, dust-covered jeans, classic rock and valuable lessons learned. One can’t help but wonder why this genre hasn’t been updated to the present day. Why are there movies about kids growing up in the 1980s, which try to tell contemporary youngsters that life was better when The Talking Heads were on the radio?
Anyway, The Sandlot still has that old-fashioned charm, and of course it culminates in one of the most satisfying chase scenes in kids movie history. It’s worth revisiting this summer (and every other summer, come to think of it).
Stage Fright (Watch It Now)
There are a lot of summer movies about summer camps, but usually it’s the type of camp where kids hike all day and learn how to make laniards. Stage Fright is a film about theater camp, a very different place indeed, where talented youngsters work together to put on a fabulous show, sing brassy musical numbers and snipe at each other backstage.
And, in classic summer camp fashion, get murdered. The summer camp slasher genre isn’t well represented on Netflix, with none of the Friday the 13th or even Sleepaway Camp movies available on the service. Fortunately, Stage Fright is a perfectly good substitute: a musical slasher about kids doing a doomed production of “The Haunting of the Opera,” full of nifty kills and some killer tunes.
Stage Fright may one day have a cult following of its very own, so now would be a good time to get in on the ground floor. Start memorizing the songs now… BEFORE it’s cool!
Wet Hot American Summer (Watch It Now)
Speaking of cult classics, we have finally reached the point where Wet Hot American Summer officially qualifies. From the creators of The State came this insidious summer camp comedy back in 2001, and although it was initially a box office bomb, word of mouth spread and spread about its absurdist comedy, quotable dialogue and absolutely bonkers storyline, which incorporates falling satellites, dead campers, talking cans of vegetables and more.
The prequel series, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, takes a couple episodes to get going but quickly hits the same subversive notes as the original film. If you like one, you’re practically guaranteed to like the other. Watch it now.