By Doug Brunell | June 30, 2005

The smell of burnt popcorn and overcooked hot dogs wafts through the air like the stink of napalm in Vietnam. It’s summer at the theatre. A time when big budget nonsense is treated as seriously as any foreign film about World War II. It’s the time when cars do impossible jumps and explosions are just a little bigger than normal. School’s out. Sequels are in. And if you aren’t careful, you just may learn something.

I’ve learned a lot from summer movies. I’ve learned that profits mean more than vision. I’ve learned that attention spans are getting shorter. I’ve learned that plots are just annoying things to hang a writer’s name on. I’ve learned that many actors don’t care what they attach themselves to … as long as the money’s good. Most of all, I’ve learned that the American public seems to revel in its own stupidity if only to feel involved in what is supposed to be “the biggest hit of the summer.”

It’s a depressing group of lessons, but that’s summer at the movies. You could get more entertainment out of LSD, but as of now Will Smith

isn’t illegal.

I know far too many people who love the summer movies. They get excited at the prospect of losing a little piece of their sanity to stories that should never be told, let alone committed to DVD, VHS and — get this — bootleg VCD. They salivate at the thought of a little summer education at Hollywood U, but too many of them don’t understand the lessons they’re learning.

There’s nothing wrong with taking in a few blockbusters over those hot three months in the middle of the year. But there’s plenty wrong when that seems to be all you live for and the only movies you see. If you ate mac and cheese every night, you’d be a bloated case of bad health. If you see nothing but garbage, well … garbage in garbage out. Summer movies are the mac and cheese of the cinema. Comfort food that heals in small doses, but is absolutely destructive in large quantities.

I’m avoiding most of the summer crap, and I’d recommend you do the same. Take in an independent film that makes you excited about life. Revisit an old classic on DVD. Read a book about film. Do anything but watch “The Dukes of Hazzard.” For Christ’s sake, it wasn’t good the first time around. I say that knowing many of you are going to stand in line with the hopes of seeing Johnny Knoxville hurt himself and maybe … just maybe … catching a glimpse of Jessica Simpson’s vagina. (I know that will never happen in the film, but there are those out there who still don’t get it. They think they might see something Very Revealing. Morons.)

While a great number of the population is out of school and tired of learning, that doesn’t mean the rest of us should get off so easy. Take this time to educate yourself about what makes a good film so that you can weed out the bad. If you must sit through “Bewitched,” watch Wolves in the Snow to make up for it. Compare and contrast. You did it on numerous tests that meant nothing in the grand scheme of things, now do it to save your cinema sanity.

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