Reunions and Retreads: The Summer Movies of 1997

It's that time again, when Hollywood unleashes the most costly products of its mighty brain, those loud, ludicrous concoctions called Summer Movies. No person with a life could possibly see all of them, or even want to. But if you want to talk to normal Americans, you'll have to know what's showing down at the multiplex those long, hot afternoons and evenings.So here, as a public service, is all you need to know about what the mighty studios and major independents are cooking up for you this summer. You can save tons of money and countless hours by just becoming familiar with these three basic stories, and you can dominate any conversation about movies with the inside dope that is available exclusively in the following paragraphs. Starting immediately, here's what film fans can look forward to from now until Labor Day: Titanic Park: Batman and Robin in the Fifth Element of the Lost Volcano -- George Clooney, Jeff Willis, and Jeff Goldblum star in this futuristic action film about an ill-fated exploration to a mysterious island on which active dinosaurs are said to roam, terrorizing the few natives who stubbornly remain in residence. When a long-dormant volcano begins to hiss and rumble, emitting foul-smelling vapors, the dinosaurs gather in a sheltered bay, where they become visible from a passing luxury liner, which was headed for the island as part of a special "Adventure Tour" for the Class of '87 from a high school in a wealthy suburb of Detroit. The tour leaders -- a masked man in a rubber suit (Clooney), a tenured biology professor (Goldblum), and an off-duty Milwaukee police officer (Willis) -- are making their second pass at the lavish seafood buffet dinner when the ship's captain spies the flaming eruptions and the fleeing monsters and sounds the vessel's alarms. The intrepid threesome are soon aboard their high-speed launch, heading for the shore, accompanied by the masked man's caped sidekick (Chris O'Donnell) and three gratuitous babes in skimpy bikinis. After landing on the island, the group joins forces with local community leaders (played by Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith), who build a levee that funnels the volcanic lava into the bay area, burning or boiling the hapless, computer-generated gizmos. (Running time: 53 minutes; rated IQ-72 [no one with a higher intelligence admitted unless accompanied by a Beanie Baby or a membership card in the Steven Spielberg fan club].)Grosse Speed II: Grumpiest Old Men at Sea on Father's Day -- Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau take jobs as dance instructors on a luxury liner captained by the first woman skipper (played by Sandra Bullock) of a Caribbean cruise ship. While Lemmon and Matthau fend off the advances of horny middle-aged widows and divorcees (played by Ann-Margret, Shirley McLaine, Lily Tomlin, and Mary Tyler Moore), they attempt to put moves on some of the ship's younger female guests (Lisa Kudrow, Mira Sorvino, and Alicia Silverstone), who are on board for the ten-year reunion of their high school graduating class. The younger set brings charges against the foul-mouthed, groping geezers for sexual harassment, and against the cruise's two raunchy resident stand-up comics (Robin Williams and Billy Crystal) for "creating a hostile social climate," but their appeals fall on deaf ears since the ship's social director (John Cusack) is really a CIA agent looking for a chance to assassinate a vacationing Iraqi diplomat. Meanwhile, a crazed computer programmer (Willem Dafoe) has taken over the ship's engine room, putting the ship on course to collide with a nuclear submarine unless the captain (Bullock), agrees to allow him (Dafoe) to accompany her to the cruise's final formal banquet. When the captain (Bullock), announces over the ship's P.A. system that she is gay, half the women at the class reunion decide to come out, too, and the foul-mouthed old men (Lemmon and Matthau), with time on their hands, are able to subdue the astonished programmer (Dafoe). (Running time: 2:57; rated NG, for banality, inanity, and lack of originality.)Addicted to Love: Austin Powers Meets Hercules at My Best Friend's Wedding -- Mike Myers and Julia Roberts star as childhood sweethearts, now engaged, who suddenly realize that their real romantic inclinations are less certain than they thought. Roberts discovers she's a lesbian and begins a hot pursuit of a former class-mate (Meg Ryan), whom she meets at the ten-year reunion of her high school class. Meanwhile, Myers, after attending the same reunion, develops an uncontrollable lech for a buff cartoon character (Hercules) who comes to virtual life in a computer program created by the class nerd, who has since become Bill Gates. When Myers and Roberts come together to explain their changed feelings toward each other, their encounter is recorded by two jealous bubble-headed classmates (Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino), who hope to use the tapes to humiliate Myers and Roberts for the snubs and insults they'd inflicted on their high-school classmates. The two bimbos have also hired another classmate (John Cusack) to assassinate Myers and Roberts if they don't apologize and pay for the tacky prom dresses the two (Kudrow and Sorvino) had worn years ago, in vain attempts to look attractive. (Running time: 25 minutes, with an intermission; rated CG 13; no adults admitted unless accompanied by a child 13 or under.)There it is. The ultimate cheat sheet to make you sound informed about all that's coming out of Hollywood this summer. With no need to pay five dollars for ten cents' worth of popcorn.

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