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‘Caddyshack,’ ‘Animal House’ or ‘Step Brothers’? It’s comedy week on the Showdown

Will Ferrell, left, and John C. Reilly in "Step Brothers."
Will Ferrell, left, and John C. Reilly in the movie “Step Brothers.”
(Gemma La Mana/Columbia Pictures)

Welcome to Week 13 of the L.A. Times Ultimate Summer Movie Showdown, our 16-week contest to program the greatest summer movie season ever. Or at least since 1975, the year that “Jaws” forever changed the landscape of moviemaking, gross tallying and beach bumming forever.

To recap the rules: Each week, I present you with a list of 16 movies from 1975 to 2019, all of which were released during a particular summer time frame. You may vote for your favorites on my Twitter account, @JustinCChang; each week’s polls are posted at 5 p.m. PT Tuesday.

We start by pitting the 16 films against each other in eight head-to-head match-ups. Eight films will compete in the quarterfinal round, then four in the semifinals, followed by a final showdown between the last two movies standing.

Our first 12 winners are “The Avengers” (Week 1, May 1-7), “Bridesmaids” (Week 2, May 8-14), “Mad Max: Fury Road” (Week 3, May 15-21), “Alien” (Week 4, May 22-28), “Finding Nemo” (Week 5, May 29-June 4), “Jurassic Park” (Week 6, June 5-11), “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (Week 7, June 12-18), “Jaws” (Week 8, June 19-25), “Do the Right Thing” (Week 9, June 26-July 2), “Back to the Future” (Week 10, July 3-9), “Die Hard” (Week 11, July 10-16) and “Clueless” (Week 12, July 17-23).

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At 6 p.m. Thursday, I will be hosting a live chat with Amy Heckerling, the writer and director of “Clueless,” that will be streamed on the Los Angeles Times Classic Hollywood Facebook Page and YouTube, as well as Twitter.

Since our winners so far have veered a bit heavily toward action and horror, it was refreshing to see a comedy as pleasurable as “Clueless” come out on top last week. This week’s lineup, which covers films that opened between July 24 and July 30, is even heavier on comedies, starting with two National Lampoon titles (“Animal House” and “Vacation”), but also including the likes of “Caddyshack,” “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle,” “Kingpin” and “Step Brothers.”

Not that the lineup is lacking in action, with huge hits like “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” and “Air Force One” both in the mix. And since Steven Spielberg has won three of these Showdowns already, we shouldn’t count out the combat-heavy “Saving Private Ryan” — no one’s idea of escapism, perhaps, but still the second highest-grossing summer hit of 1998.

There’s room for some inspired oddities, too. Brian De Palma’s “Blow Out” doesn’t exactly fit the standard definition of a summer movie (and was not a commercial success on initial release), but my conscience simply wouldn’t let me exclude what may well be the single best movie in contention this week.

John Travolta in "Blow Out."
John Travolta in “Blow Out.”
(Filmways Pictures)

Here are our eight opening match-ups:

“National Lampoon’s Animal House” (1978) versus “National Lampoon’s Vacation” (1983)
Frat-house shenanigans versus road-trip high jinks.

“Caddyshack” (1980) versus “Kingpin” (1996)
Battle of the Bill Murray sports comedies.

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“Blow Out” (1981) versus “Air Force One” (1997)
A presidential hopeful gets assassinated in one; a president is gravely imperiled in the other.

“An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982) versus “Purple Rain” (1984)
Battle of the soundtrack chart-toppers.

Prince in 1984's "Purple Rain."
Prince in 1984’s “Purple Rain.”
(Warner Bros.)

“Flight of the Navigator” (1986) versus “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006)
Two hit road movies involving highly unusual vehicles.

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“Cocktail” (1988) versus “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” (2018)
Would you rather watch Tom Cruise mix drinks or demolish a bathroom?

“Saving Private Ryan” (1998) versus “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” (2019)
Two summer-released magnum opuses from two of the biggest directors on the planet whose year-end Oscar hopes somehow didn’t quite pan out.

“Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” (2002) versus “Step Brothers” (2008)
Two buddy comedies with exceptional replay value.

John Cho, left, Neil Patrick Harris and Kal Penn in "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle."
John Cho, left, Neil Patrick Harris and Kal Penn in the movie “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.”
(Sophie Giraud/New Line Productions)

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How to vote: If you have a Twitter account (and if you don’t, you can sign up for one for free), you may vote in the polls I will post this week. Here’s the schedule:

Monday, July 27
5 p.m.: Polls open for knockout round; voting ends at 1 a.m. Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 28
8 a.m.: Polls open for quarterfinals; voting ends at 4 p.m.
5 p.m.: Polls open for semifinals; voting ends at 1 a.m. Wednesday.

Wednesday, July 29
8 a.m.: Polls open for final vote.
4 p.m.: Final polls close; winner announced.

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Happy voting — and stay tuned for Week 14.


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