National Lampoon's European Vacation [Blu-Ray] Amy Heckerling

National Lampoon's European Vacation [Blu-Ray] Amy Heckerling
At last! After more than four years on the market, the Blu-Ray player will finally receive the rigorous audiovisual workout that customers have long been demanding with the feverishly anticipated hi-def release of National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985). For too long, home audiences have had to resort to video, DVD or the three a.m. slot on TBS for their fix of this Griswald family shenanigan-fest, wondering just how much of director Amy Heckerling's haphazard compositions were lost in the pan-and-scan process. Well, the wait is over and the miraculous crystal clarity of Blu-Ray will no doubt revolutionize the National Lampoon's European Vacation viewing experience for generations to come. Alas, even with such an optimal viewing experience, the sands of time haven't been kind to the second instalment of the Chevy Chase/Beverly D'Angelo, tourism-run-amok series, in which the Griswalds win an all-expenses paid trip to the UK, France, Germany and Rome on a game show called Be a Pig (where they wear pig costumes ― har har). The usual cultural stereotypes abound ― polite Brits, anti-American Frenchmen and a whole lot of lederhosen ― in a film that will give you exactly all the jokes you expect. Yes, our heroes will get stuck in a roundabout and, yes, there will be wackiness on the Eiffel Tower. The screenplay (co-written by John Hughes) lacks the one-disaster-after-another momentum that helped the hit-and-miss first film ― take out any ten minutes and you've lost nothing. (I suggest taking out the painfully unfunny and redundant dream sequences near the beginning.) The comic set pieces unfold like little skits, few with any clear set-up/pay-off arc (the mistaken-identity hotel stuff is particularly predictable and poorly timed), and no joke is too lame to be beaten further into the ground by heavy-handed foreshadowing. I wouldn't even dream of revealing if, after Chase delivers a soliloquy about the durability of Stonehenge, he knocks the whole thing over by backing his car into it. Other jokes don't even make sense: a thief steals Chase's video camera, which includes a sex tape he made with D'Angelo. A few days later, the tape is in movie theatres across the continent, with billboards all around Rome. How in God's name is that even possible? Unless you're an irrational '80s nostalgic, Eric Idle completist or insomniac with basic cable, just keep on walking. The sole extra is a Chevy Chase commentary, marked by long pauses, occasional descriptions of on-screen action and frequent chuckling. For an extra layer of sadness, just pretend it's part of the actual soundtrack. (Warner)