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Not a vacation to remember
on 14 February 2011
The Griswold's (mis-spelled here as Griswald) European Tour is far inferior to their cross-country trek to Walley World. First time around Clark had a goal, a destination, and pay-off for the audience when he finally got there. Second time around he's just wandering aimlessly from country to country, and it doesn't make for great entertainment I'm afraid.
The Griswold's win the grand prize in a humiliating TV show called 'Pig in a Poke' and are sent to England, France, Germany, and Italy on an all expenses paid trip. The bulk of the humor is a scatter-shot approach to comedy that abuses tired clichés and cultural stereotypes for quick, easy, cheap laughs.
Director Amy Heckerling may have used the first Vacation as a reference, but she doesn't have the control over the film that Harold Ramis did, and frequently allows the actors to ad-lib with the assumption that whatever they do might be funny. Even comedy actors need direction, and Heckerling's poor effort ruins many scenes that had potential. Even her camera placing and angles seem awkward and unbalanced. The grainy, low-key photography is also completely inappropriate for a film featuring such a wide range of scenery. Her use of stock footage is bad too (a shot of the Statue of Liberty shows no Twin Towers of the WTC, which were built in 1972!), and heightens the slapdash nature of the production. A few scenes seem to be edited out of order too, which leads me to believe that the script flowed a little differently before being rewritten (Clark leaves the London hotel, moves literally five feet down the street, then asks for directions back to the hotel).
John Hughes' influence on the script was obviously minimum. Vacation and Christmas Vacation were ficionalised accounts of his own family's experiences. But European Vacation feels like a quick cash-in on the original's success, and co-writer Robert Klane doesn't know how to inject the pathos and satire that was so easy for Hughes.
The European trip is definitely lagging far behind Walley World, Christmas and Las Vegas. A better director and a tighter script would have saved it. But Chase is as watchable as ever, and the only reason to sit through this poorly-made drivel.
The Blu Ray features a mediocre 1080p 1.78:1 picture (the photography was never anything to write home about anyway) with DTS HD-MA mono sound. Extras are limited to a Chevy Chase commentary in which he speaks like he'd rather be elsewhere.