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National Lampoon's European Vacation(1985)
Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo return as Clark and Ellen, winners of a European tour on which their teenagers Rusty (Jason Lively) and Audrey (Dana Hill) join them. Deluxe accommodations... aren't. Clark tries left-sided English Driving, leaving Stonehenge unhinged. In Bavaria a slap-dancing polka turns into a slaphappy free-for-all. It's holiday road havoc for the Griswalds - and your high road to hilarity!
For more about National Lampoon's European Vacation and the National Lampoon's European Vacation Blu-ray release, see National Lampoon's European Vacation Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on August 9, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Director: Amy Heckerling
Writer: John Hughes (I)
Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Jason Lively, John Astin, Paul Bartel, Mel Smith
» See full cast & crew
National Lampoon's European Vacation Blu-ray Review
Just don't leave the menu running on a loop. Yikes.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, August 9, 2010
We're not normal people. We're the Griswolds!
Sequel time! Cinema's favorite bumbling vacationers, the Griswolds, are back for their second go-round of traveling misadventures in National Lampoon's European Vacation, the follow-up to 1983's fan-favorite Vacation. As with many second efforts, European Vacation falls well short of the standard set by its predecessor; the picture finds several honest laughs -- how could it not with John Hughes penning the script, Fast Times at Ridgemont High's Amy Heckerling working behind the camera, and Chevy Chase reprising the lead role -- but it lacks both the magic and the staying power of the first film. European Vacation has a rushed feel to it, and one can't help but wonder if the story was built around several good jokes rather than the jokes naturally flowing from the story. No matter, European Vacation still trumps many of today's Comedies, and it boasts several classic moments and side characters that rank up there among the series' best.
Fresh off their unforgettable cross-country journey to Walley World, the Griswolds find themselves on the hit game show "Pig in a Poke" that requires its contestants to humiliate themselves by wearing oversized pig costumes but promises big prizes to those who make it through to the end. By sheer luck, the family wins a pricey European getaway on the game's dime, and the family's off to cross the Atlantic and enjoy some of the world's hottest destinations. Of course, it wouldn't be a Griswold vacation if all went according to plan. Father Clark (Chevy Chase, Caddyshack) is again determined to make this the best family vacation yet, but his overzealousness threatens to make it the worst. Daughter Audrey (Dana Hill) longs for her boyfriend Jack (William Zabka, The Karate Kid) and son Rusty (Jason Lively) sees Europe as a breeding ground for nubile young girls with a passion for 15-year-old American boys with braces. Then there's mom, Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo, Every Which Way But Loose), who's trying to keep everyone on an even keel -- until Clark's foolishness gets her in hot water, too. Can London, Paris, Germany, and Rome survive the Griswolds, or will the continent be on the brink of another war, this time with a seemingly innocent family from Chicago?
National Lampoon's European Vacation feels like a shell of its predecessor, even if it is pretty much the same movie, only taking place in a different spot of the world and with a couple of new faces replacing Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron as the Griswold's teenage children. The picture doesn't want for talent, and it wouldn't be fair to call it "a complete misfire," but European Vacation fails to live up to its namesake and, in retrospect, is easily the least among the two Vacation films it falls between. What's wrong isn't an absence of humor -- European Vacation has plenty of funny bits -- but it's absent the energy and charisma of the first, odd considering that the gags play out with the same subtly chaotic tenor and with the same wonderful performance from Chevy Chase. It's almost like European Vacation was bound and determined to top the first movie in scope but without changing up the formula all that much, and the result is a picture that works in spurts but feels more patchwork than organic.
Behind the camera is Amy Heckerling, fresh off of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, who doesn't show the same verve here as she did with that 1982 cult classic or would show in future projects like Look Who's Talking and Clueless. Her direction in European Vacation is pretty stale, but then again, she doesn't have much more than the template from the first film and a clunky plot to work with, not to mention a script that asks her to build a final act that becomes bogged down in a goofy mystery subplot that adds almost nothing to the movie. The picture also suffers through some stretches of dullness (a bit on a train where the family has voted not to talk to one another) and plenty of annoying repetitiveness (Audrey's emotional outbursts) in between those elements that do work, namely Chevy Chase being the same old Clark Griswold and those scenes with Eric Idle portraying a man who can't seem to escape bodily harm as a result of Clark's absentmindedness. What really stands out, though, is the absence of Randy Quaid's "Cousin Eddie" character; Quaid in the other films is easily Chase's match and, arguably, the series' most memorable character.
National Lampoon's European Vacation Blu-ray, Video Quality
Warner Brothers brings National Lampoon's European Vacation to Blu-ray with a steady and moderately handsome 1080p, 1.78:1-framed transfer. Like Vacation, colors tend towards a slightly dulled shade, through brighter hues -- particularly a red car seen near the end of the film -- almost sparkle. Fine object detail is good but far from extraordinary. Faces sport only modest texture, but objects like carpets and towels benefit from the added boost in resolution over standard definition. Distant objects, such as city vistas and clumps of vegetation, lack sharpness. The image features grain throughout, spiking at times but generally remaining visually unobtrusive. Flesh tones are fine, though blacks occasionally lean towards the sloppy. This is a solid but modest image, and it comes about as-expected of a mid-1980s Comedy. Viewers shouldn't expect that fresh-from-theaters sheen, but longtime fans of this film should appreciate what Warner's transfer has done for the film.
National Lampoon's European Vacation Blu-ray, Audio Quality
National Lampoon's European Vacation sputters onto Blu-ray with a paltry DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono soundtrack that sounds pretty much the same, if not a bit more cramped and indistinct, as that found on the National Lampoon's Vacation Blu-ray release. This is primarily a dialogue- and music-driven picture. As to the former, it's adequately reproduced, though there are some stretches where characters sound far too shallow and mushy. The picture's music enjoys a bit more heft and clarity; the series' trademark song, "Holiday Road," plays with a fair bit of crispness and accuracy even through the single-channel presentation. Various atmospheric effects do nothing, obviously, to immerse the listener into the picture's several exotic locales, serving instead simply as basic audible reinforcements to whatever visuals they accompany. National Lampoon's European Vacation doesn't suffer for its limited track, but Warner's mono presentation doesn't add much of anything to the experience, either.
National Lampoon's European Vacation Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
National Lampoon's European Vacation features only an audio commentary track with Actor Chevy Chase. His is a hit-and-run type track; he delivers some moderately insightful comments but allows for some long stretches of silence. Hardcore Vacation fans will want to give it a listen, but casual fans would be better served spending 90 minutes doing something else.
National Lampoon's European Vacation Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
National Lampoon's European Vacation is a pretty average sequel; it's basically the same movie as the first but with a new setting and, mostly, the same old jokes told in such a way so that they fit in better with their overseas surroundings. It's not a bad picture, but it's definitely lacking the charisma and classic feel of the first, even though Chevy Chase's performance is just about as good here as it was in Vacation. Amy Heckerling's take on John Hughes' script lacks flow, and the picture also suffers from the nonappearance of "Cousin Eddie," though Eric Idle's memorable side character almost makes up for Randy Quaid's absence. European Vacation makes a fine companion film to the first, but it's easily lacking behind both its predecessor and sucessor. Warner's Blu-ray release of National Lampoon's European Vacation features a decent enough technical presentation but it comes up lacking in special features. Fans will want to upgrade for the boost in picture quality, but casual viewers would be wise to rent.
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