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Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation(1962)
Roger Hobbs is a harried city dweller who longs to take his family to the seashore for a vacation. He and his wife Peggy do get the family to the sand, but new problems develop there, and the vacation turns out to be a mixed blessing.
For more about Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation and the Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation Blu-ray release, see Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on April 21, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: James Stewart, Maureen O'Hara, Fabian, John Saxon, John McGiver
Director: Henry Koster
» See full cast & crew
Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation Blu-ray Review
If only they had had TripAdvisor in 1962.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, April 21, 2014
A rather sad parade of once prominent film stars—actually iconic film stars at that—started matriculating to television in sometimes lackluster properties as they saw their film careers wane. Two of these star centered series debuted at around the same time (give or take a few months), and both quickly perished, despite featuring two of the best known actors of their era, two guys who had in fact just appeared in that other refuge of the once hot but now aging star class, the western. Henry Fonda and James Stewart are still lionized today as two of the greatest stars of The Golden Age of Hollywood, but the sixties and seventies proved to be transitional periods for both men, perhaps inevitably. But their efforts proved to also at times be disappointing, at least when measuring their television outings. Fonda starred in the short-lived The Smith Family, which began airing as a mid-season replacement on ABC in January of 1971, and eked out that half season and another full one before expiring, to no one's particular surprise or dismay. In that fall of 1971, Jimmy joined the sitcom fray with The Jimmy Stewart Show, a similarly bland enterprise which barely managed to last one season before a quick (and perhaps merciful) cancellation. Both of these stars were thrust into completely formulaic "family" sitcoms that probably would have been more at home in the 1950s than in the wake of the Flower Power generation and the dawning of the Age of Aquarius and/or Watergate. Cast in undemanding roles as the understanding father (and/or grandfather), the repository of all wisdom and the sure, steady hand guiding a minimally dysfunctional family to greener pastures, Fonda and Stewart both coasted amiably enough, but without much ultimate appeal. Fonda actually managed to forge a fairly successful career in the sixties in the film world, even mostly managing to stay away from middling family comedies (with the exception of entries like 1968's Yours, Mine and Ours), while Stewart struggled to find suitable properties during this era, splitting his time between sometimes mundane comedies (including his so-so comic western with Fonda, The Cheyenne Social Club) and okay but hardly breathtaking (non-comic) westerns. The first of Stewart's relatively short run of family oriented comedies was 1962's slight but enjoyable Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation. Looking at the film from a distance might lead some to expect the same cinematic blandness as befell Stewart's later television enterprise, with its tale of a lovably chaotic family attempting to navigate the not all that treacherous waters of a summer holiday. While Stewart is paired with Maureen O'Hara here (interestingly, O'Hara would go right on to co-star with Fonda in 1963's Spencer's Mountain) in what might initially be seen as a kind of passable but none too exciting "big screen sitcom", Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation turns out to have a rather unexpectedly (if intermittently) acerbic tone at times, one which helps to at least occasionally elevate it above mere time killer status.
Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation with not one but two kind of odd preliminary conceits. One refers to the then very au courant "space age" ethos of the early sixties as Stewart's very distinctive voice narrates over footage of a rocket blasting off toward the heavens, with the trenchant comment that it's obvious why man is proceeding into this area of discovery: it's too damned crowded down on Earth. A brief pre-credits interlude of Stewart driving a Valiant compact in between menacing semi trucks then finally segues to a post-credits sequence where Stewart, as one Roger Hobbs, enters his office and calls for his secretary to take some dictation, at which point he launches into the story of a vacation from which he has just returned. This rather peculiar structure doesn't really add anything to the film, and it's further exacerbated by several moments where the narrative flow (once that actual main flashback begins) is further interrupted by Hobbs' voiceovers giving additional commentary as certain sequences play out.
The Hobbs family is a study in early sixties style dysfunction. Young son Danny (Michael Burns) is addicted to television, specifically westerns. Daughter Katey (Lauri Peters, from the original Broadway cast of The Sound of Music) is upset that a new set of braces will make her a social pariah. Once the Hobbs' older daughters arrive at the dilapidated beachside manse that Mrs. Hobbs, Peggy (Maureen O'Hara), has found for the annual family vacation, things take a turn toward the melocomedic (if I may be permitted to coin a new term). Both older women are experiencing relationship issues of their own. Susan (Natalie Trundy) is attempting to deal with the fact the her husband Stan (Josh Peine) has been unemployed for a while. This sets up a later sequence where Roger has to host a potential employer of Stan on a patently silly bird watching expedition (this offers the always great John McGiver an opportunity to trot out his iconically fusty persona in a guest appearance). The other daughter, Janie (Lili Gentile), stews as Byron (John Saxon) immediately starts making goo-goo eyes for the buxom blonde neighbor Marika (Valerie Varda), a comely lass who has already gotten on Peggy's radar when Marika started chatting up Roger out on the beach one sunny morning.
There's really no denying that there's a certain pre-fab quality to much of Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation, exactly the same quality that just as admittedly sank both Stewart and Fonda's first forays into sitcom land a few years after this film debuted. But there's also a certain cynicism at times that gives Mr. Hobbs at least a bit of an edge, albeit one tempered with the foreknowledge that Roger will be able to help solve all of these little crises, albeit with some attendant stumbles along the way. One of the best running gags in the film features Stewart repeatedly trying to make a phone call from the vacation house, only to intrude mid-anecdote on a nonstop discussion between two elderly women recounting a litany of medical horrors (this was in the days of "party lines"). Some of the other bits, including a role obviously jiggered to shoehorn teen sensation Fabian into the proceedings, are less successful. (Keep your eye out during the party scene with Fabian —that's none other than future Tijuana Brass star and A&M Records co-founder Herb Alpert playing the trumpet in the background. Hobbs in fact was probably filmed at exactly the same time that Alpert was experimenting with overdubbing in his garage recording studio, which would result in just a few months with his Top Ten single "The Lonely Bull", which debuted about six months after Hobbs was released.)
Baby Boomers may recognize the inimitable hand of Mad Magazine's Mort Drucker behind the cover illustration of a hapless Roger Hobbs attempting to march through his disastrous vacation experience. If Nunnally Johnson's screenplay had a bit more of Mad's inherent insouciance, the film might have been a noticeably fluffier soufflé. As it stands, Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation is often wryly amusing, but it's stuck in a kind of netherworld between (on the low end) the vast wasteland of sitcom antics like those Stewart and Fonda would attempt to mine in a few years on television, and (on the relatively high end) more effervescent family comedies of this same general era like Norman Jewison's The Thrill of It All. Ultimately, though, you could do a lot worse than to spend some not-so-quality vacation time with the Hobbs family.
Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation Blu-ray, Video Quality
Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation is presented on Blu-ray with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1. Age has been surprisingly kind to the elements utilized for this transfer, at least with regard to damage, which is at a minimal level with only a few extremely transitory specks offering much concern. The biggest issue here is with some slight fading and especially with an equally slight but noticeable skewing of the palette toward the brown side of things. This tends to make flesh tones slightly ruddy looking and things like Stewart's red striped bathrobe read slightly more orange. However, even these anomalies are transitory at times—take a look at the relatively accurate looking flesh tones in screenshot 3. Contrast is solid throughout the presentation, and there's unexpectedly little difference in sharpness and clarity between the location beach work and the studio set sequences. No compression artifacts or undue digital interference with the image were noticed in preparation for this review.
Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix suffices perfectly well for this dialogue (and occasionally sound effect) driven comedy. All of the spoken moments are offered with clarity, if not much depth, and Henry Mancini's spritely music also sounds clear and bright. There is no damage of any kind to warrant any concern.
Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation is better than mediocre, but it's not innovative or consistently acerbic enough to ever make it out of the ranks of the "pretty good" to the "great". The film is buoyed by excellent performances all around (even if Stewart's hemming and hawing gets to be mannered after a while), and Henry Koster weaves together the location and studio sequences quite effortlessly. But there's still a kind of old fashioned quality to a lot of the proceedings here, something that may in fact recommend it to those of a certain age, while making it seem completely corny and hackneyed to younger, more cynical, tastes. The technical package here is generally good and Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation comes Recommended.
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