My Summer Story Blu-ray Review

Summer-izing

Ignore, momentarily, 2012’s shoehorned A Christmas Story 2. Bob Clark’s Turner Broadcasting-led classic did have a genuine sequel (two, actually) one being the obscure TV movie Ollie Hopnoodle’s Haven of Bliss, the other, My Summer Story.

MGM hid this 1994 follow-up, casting it out to theaters under the name of It Runs in the Family. Comparisons to A Christmas Story only dull this tepid romp, so the decision was sound.

Jean Sheperd returns to narrate the summer edition, one of the few tenuous connections to the first film. A decade between releases dictated a new cast, trapping Charles Grodin in a role designed only to mimic Darren McGavin’s grumpy Old Man. Much of My Summer Story lapses into a routine. The film is less concerned with invoking nostalgia for summertime than it is recreating Christmas Story’s methods. Sheperd’s opening line, “Some events come and go without realizing how important they are,” leers at the audience as if in reference to the sour box office reception of Ralphie’s first film.

Ralphie’s BB gun remains a fixture. He is still shot by the thing too, albeit without narrative consequences. Such a reference is just that – a reference. My Summer Story has a nervous tick, trying to leverage itself with broad memories. They’re meant to be shared by anyone who grew up in middle class America. Instead, it sinks into comedic slogs as dad battles hillbilly neighbors and mom (Mary Steenburgen) becomes enamored with celebrity gravy bowls. Perspective, once so focused from behind Ralphie’s glasses, now jumps between everyone. Kieran Culkin makes a fine Ralphie though, enthusiastic and cheery, although much of the character is constructed by Sheperd’s calming approach.

Scenes of school’s letting out and kids taking over the streets of rural Indiana carry some joy, but this isn’t Christmas.

It’s an uphill battle from the outset for My Summer Story. Scenes of schools letting out and kids taking over the streets of rural Indiana carry some joy, but this isn’t Christmas. National Lampoon’s Vacation darted off to Europe for a sequel and discovered the quirks of American roadtrips cannot be equated to an overseas adventure. A Christmas Story lost the joyous haze of winter.

A certain approachable quality remains. Failed or not, My Summer Story still grabs many instances of childhood. Friends move away. Bullies persist. Misunderstandings about paying taxes are played for laughs. If My Summer Story hits, it is within the final minutes as Ralphie sits in on a conversation with Mr. Parker’s fishing buddies, exposed to the elements of life through their stories. Such closure is serene in a film where kids jet downhill on bikes without helmets, roam free at fairs, and settle their top-battling competitions in the street. Innocence and lack of worry are a relief; My Summer Story captures both.

Movie ★★★☆☆ 

My Summer Story Blu-ray screen shot 5

Olive does this forgotten feature well, sending out a Blu-ray presentation which accurately captures the look of this early ’90s film stock. Ignore the opening credits. That persistent damage and softness will quickly disappear. What remains is a sharp, textured mirroring of the original images, from a source which appears close to the original negative.

Transfer work presents grain impeccably. This material is a touch easier to resolve than A Christmas Story which relied on a specific dreamy haziness. Summer heat brings total clarity, that or the change in cinematographer. Probably the latter.

Excellent, natural contrast fills the frame. Black levels are pure and natural. Color comes across untouched and unobstructed. Primaries reach a pleasing peak and don’t leave.

Add this to an unexpectedly high resolution source and My Summer Story reaches a visual pinnacle for movies of the era. Facial detail never suffers and exteriors pull out the vividness of the 1930s era production design. A stray scratch or two won’t make a lasting impact.

Video ★★★★☆ 

Calm down a bit from the video – audio troubles persist. Quality is dry, oddly matching the pale early ’80s audio of A Christmas Story. That’s an odd connection.

A generational jump can be noticed. My Summer Story takes on some stereo imaging, heartily used when at an expo or when the neighbors turned rowdy. Schoolyards are active too.

If this seems low in volume when the disc begins, don’t worry. There is a massive decibel jump coming at 38-minutes. The sudden jolt is a shock, but fidelity isn’t lost. Be prepared to make the unusual adjustment.

Audio ★★★☆☆ 

My Summer Story doesn’t even come with an extras menu, let alone a bonus.

Extras ☆☆☆☆☆ 

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

[display_rating_form]
[display_rating_result]

Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

  • I may be one of the last few adults that hasn’t ever seen A Christmas Story. I’ll probably save it for Christmas of this year.