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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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“We’ve talked about this before in the past, my obsession with the Shakespearean histories having the ideal combination of the sweet and the sour. In ‘Henry IV, Part II’ which we’ve discussed before, in the end of that story it’s very complex and haunting because Prince Hal becomes Henry the King, and he has transcended his hoodlum days and at the ceremony is Falstaff, his good friend with whom he has really fucked around and been a loser with, and Falstaff comes up to him and says, ‘Now that you’re king we can really party,’ and the king famously says, ‘I know thee not, old man.’ It becomes Henry IV’s anointment and Falstaff’s catastrophe. That’s life. I have experienced very little unfettered triumph. There are moments, such as when my children are born, but even that comes with new fears and anxieties. In a sense the better you can communicate that life is both at once, the more powerful over time something becomes. One strives for something where the threads are there because it lasts in way that is very palpable. The idea of a tragedy is powerful in literature and theater, but in cinema it doesn’t work, certainly not commercially, and less so critically. Why is that? I think it has to do with how movies are so close to us.”
~ James Gray

 

“Hollywood executives can rattle off the rules for getting a movie approved by Chinese censors: no sex (too unseemly); no ghosts (too spiritual). Among 10 prohibited plot elements are “disrupts the social order” and “jeopardizes social morality.” Time travel is frowned upon because of its premise that individuals can change history. U.S. filmmakers sometimes anticipate Chinese censors and alter movies before their release. The Oscar-winning alien-invasion drama “Arrival” was edited to make a Chinese general appear less antagonistic before the film’s debut in China this year. For “Passengers,” the space adventure starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, a scene showing Mr. Pratt’s bare backside was removed, and a scene of Mr. Pratt chatting in Mandarin with a robot bartender was added.”
~ “Hollywood’s New Script”