MCN Columnists
Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt Pratt@moviecitynews.com

DVD Geek: Vacation

Only one test is necessary to judge a comedy—does it make you laugh?—and by the conditions of that test, the Warner Home Video release, Vacation, is a success. The slapstick, character humor and absurdist punctuations are plentiful, are linked by a coherent narrative, and are supported by a generally benign premise. There is hardly anything that is alienating about the 2015 feature, and plenty that is amusing. The one problem is that the film is a direct sequel to the original National Lampoon’s Vacation. That 1983 film, feeding a hunger for more movies like Animal House and more films from Saturday Night Live cast members, was a blockbuster, and this Vacation cannot possibly achieve the memories of humor (not necessarily the real humor, just the nostalgic memory for it—the movie itself even makes a direct meta-joke about that) the previous film represents.

Ed Helms stars as a commercial pilot who wants to take his family on a similar vacation to the one—depicted in the earlier film—he went on as a child. Christina Applegate plays his wife, and Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo have an extended cameo when the family stops off at the grandparents’ house. They have two sons, and one of the film’s consistently funny gags is that the younger son utterly dominates the older one, like a Chihuahua terrorizing a shepherd. They go on their trip, disastrous incidents occur, and they bond a little tiny bit from the experience.

The movie has also been issued as a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD, with more special features, which is the only real reason to consider it, although the best feature, 12 minutes of fully amusing deleted scenes, appears on both.  If the picture quality is a little sharper on the BD, and the 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound is a little stronger, that hardly matters.  There is an audio track that describes the action (“Rusty drives as everyone else sleeps.  He looks out his window to see a smoking hot blonde driving a red convertible in the next lane.  She smiles at him flirtatiously.  Rusty points to himself quizzically.  She seductively waves.  He waves back, then playfully points to his wedding ring.  She shrugs, then continues flirting.  Rusty nods with her.  She blows a kiss.  He catches it, then gives a salute.  She keeps flirting.  Rusty smiles bashfully.  He looks away as she changes lanes to the left.  She moves into oncoming traffic, and a huge semi-truck demolishes her.”), alternate French and Spanish audio tracks, optional English, French and Spanish subtitles, and a 2-minute tourism plug for the state of Georgia, where the film was shot.  In addition to that, the BD has Portuguese audio and subtitles tracks, a 2-minute blooper reel with a couple of choice moments, and 28 minutes of promotional featurettes that include a lot of Chase and D’Angelo.

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The Ultimate DVD Geek

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“When books become a thing, they can no longer be fine.

“Literary people get mad at Knausgård the same way they get mad at Jonathan Franzen, a writer who, if I’m being honest, might be fine. I’m rarely honest about Jonathan Franzen. He’s an extremely annoying manI have only read bits and pieces of his novels, and while I’ve stopped reading many novels even though they were pretty good or great, I have always stopped reading Jonathan Franzen’s novels because I thought they were aggressively boring and dumb and smug. But why do I think this? I didn’t read him when he was a new interesting writer who wrote a couple of weird books and then hit it big with ‘The Corrections,’ a moment in which I might have picked him up with curiosity and read with an open mind; I only noticed him once, after David Foster Wallace had died, he became the heir apparent for the Great American Novelist position, once he had had that thing with Oprah and started giving interviews in which he said all manner of dumb shit; I only noticed him well after I had been told he was An Important Writer.

“So I can’t and shouldn’t pretend that I am unmoved by the lazily-satisfied gentle arrogance he projects or when he is given license to project it by the has-the-whole-world-gone-crazy development of him being constantly crowned and re-crowned as Is He The Great American Writer. What I really object to is this, and if there’s anything to his writing beyond it, I can’t see it and can’t be bothered. Others read him and tell me he’s actually a good writer—people whose critical instincts I have learned to respect—so I feel sure that he’s probably a perfectly fine, that his books are fine, and that probably even his stupid goddamned bird essays are probably also fine.

“But it’s too late. He has become a thing; he can’t be fine.”
~ Aaron Bady

“You know how in postproduction you are supposed to color-correct the picture so everything is smooth and even? Jean-Luc wants the opposite. He wants the rupture. Color and then black and white, or different intensities of color. Or how in this film, sometimes you see the ratio of the frame change after the image begins. That happens when he records from his TV onto his old DVCAM analog machine, which is so old we can’t even find parts when it needs to be repaired. The TV takes time to recognize and adjust to the format on the DVD or the Blu-ray. Whether it’s 1:33 or 1:85. And one of the TVs he uses is slower than the other. He wants to keep all that. I could correct it, but he doesn’t want me to. See, here’s an image from War and Peace. He did the overlays of color—red, white, and blue—using an old analog video effects machine. That’s why you have the blur. When I tried to redo it in digital, I couldn’t. The edges were too sharp. And why the image jitters—I don’t know how he did that. Playing with the cable maybe. Handmade. He wants to see that. It’s a gift from his old machine.”
~ Fabrice Aragno