A day at the beach, but without the burn 

Summer Guide:

Summer is a fool's paradise. Sure, the mix of cocoa butter and cooling seaside breezes seems enticing enough. But once you realize that taking full advantage of the warmest months entails parading your flabby butt around in front of people who clearly are and always will be your genetic superiors, well, the season just loses its luster pretty darn quickly.

Thankfully, salvation can be found at your local video rental house. The videos reviewed here offer all of the fun and excitement of a day at the beach, without any potentially mortifying exposure on your part. Remember: You can see them, but they can't see you.

Big Kahunas

Summer movies that made waves:

Beach Party Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon in the epic that started it all. Say what you will about Annette's dramatic range; at least she could drive all the way to the shore in a convertible without one hair moving out of place. That's talent.

Beach Blanket Bingo Can any movie that features both Don Rickles and the immortal Buster Keaton really be all that bad? Answer: All that bad and more. Watching this movie in 1997 is an experience akin to the time you actually rented "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and watched it at home alone. You knew the pauses were there to make room for laughter, but you couldn't for the life of you figure out why anyone thought they were necessary. Simply tortuous.

Ghost in the Invisible Bikini Strangely, this movie isn't available on video, so you'll just have to take my word for it when I tell you that it centers on a recently deceased beach bunny, who moves amongst a community of swingin' teens as a blue-tinted, superimposed apparition. One can only imagine what a steady diet of such cheerful necrophilia-lite does to an impressionable young mind. I know! You grow up to direct "Kissed!"

Back to the Beach Annette and Frankie's "comeback." In a vain attempt to wring some entertainment out of this turkey, my high school buddies and I arrived at the theater in full beach regalia, desperate to initiate a midnight movie-style interactive experience. On the plus side, I got to sit next to a bikini-clad Beth Grorud for two hours. On the down side, the movie still sucked.

Hot and Sweaty

Love scenes that bring summer indoors:

Body Heat Isn't it fun to think back to the days when Kathleen Turner was considered the sweetest young thing on Hollywood and Vine? Look for the besotted, washed- up diva to return in the soon-to-come reunion sequel, "Body Fat."

Against All Odds Really, what is all the fuss about? One very brief, exceedingly tame tangle between two characters you couldn't care less about. The sight of sweat may be an aphrodisiac, but how bad must they have smelled when it was all over? Preferred dialogue: "Hey, you're not Kurt Russell!"

Bolero Bo Derek does it every which way but loose in another of her hubby's pet projects. A new dimension in open relationships, but what's the "10" girl going to do when Take Our Daughters to Work Day rolls around?

Never Too Young to Die The pairing of John Stamos and Vanity may seem an unlikely candidate for any sort of award. But one glimpse of the former Prince protégé's seductive passions, and you'll rue the day she turned her life over to Jesus.

Cruel Summer

The big letdowns:

Beaches I rented this one for the title, figuring there were going to be lots of surfing contests and stuff. But it's a chick movie! Not a wipeout to be found! Nice cameo by The Artist Formerly Known as Blossom, though.

In the Heat of the Night Another misleading title, another disappointment. Not one limbo contest, or even a suntan. Just a lot of angry race-baiting (so I guess it is a beach movie, if you count Howard Beach).

Summer of '42 Coming of age, blah blah blah. Timeless period piece, yadda yadda yadda. Where's the freakin' luau?

On the Beach BIG wipeout in this one.

Caged Heat No, it's not a beach party movie, either. But after you've ingested the fifth women's prison shower sequence, no one's gonna hear you complaining. Surf's up!


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