The Griswold's European Tour
The first of these Chevy Chase lead vacation movies "National Lampoon's Vacation" really was quite good fun and it pretty much set the bench mark when it came to road trip movies. But whilst good fun I would never have expected it to spawn a sequel and after watching "National Lampoon's European Vacation" I wish it hadn't. Any intelligence from the first movie and to be frank much of the humour is lost as we go on a whistle stop tour of Europe with the Griswold's and as such it plays like a series of disappointing set pieces surrounding cultural stereotypes rather than anything else.
Having unexpectedly won the top prize on TV game show "Pig in a Poke" the Griswold's find themselves heading off for a holiday around Europe taking in Britain, France, Germany and Italy. But what should be a pleasant trip of cultural enlightenment turns into another holiday from hell as one mishap follows another as Clark (Chevy Chase), Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo), Rusty (Jason Lively) and Audrey (Dana Hill) navigate their way as amiable tourists taking in such delights as Stone Henge, The Eiffel Tower and the Colosseum.
The biggest issue with "National Lampoon's European Vacation" is that it doesn't really have a storyline other than the Griswold's trip around Europe. It starts of well enough with them winning the holiday on the amusing "Pig in a Poke" game show but after that there is nothing which really makes all this country hopping that interesting. Even the attempt to derive a criminal storyline when they reach Italy adds little to make it feel like there is a narrative arc to things, which means that "National Lampoon's European Vacation" ends up playing like a series of gags which writer John Hughes came up with.
This heavy reliance on the set pieces, many of which revolve around the Griswold's not being the brightest bunch as well as various cultural stereotypes, just doesn't work. It's not overly funny as we watch Clark make a fool of himself in one country or another and to be blunt watching it now the various jokes about cultural stereotypes is unintentionally offensive. The lack of a real storyline or one which is important causes the jokes too feel repetitive, thrown at you one after another with nothing to really give them a meaning. Plus of course being a sequel there are various moments which mirror the first movie so we get another shower scene featuring Beverly D'Angelo. It ends up feeling tired rather than funny with many of the jokes failing to raise more than barely a smile, even the brief moments of nudity.
As for the performances well only Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo return to reprise their roles as Clark and Ellen Griswold and although they work well together the energy and enthusiasm they showed the first time around is sadly lacking. In place of Anthony Michael Hall as Rusty we get Jason Lively and replacing Dana Barron as Audrey we get Dana Hill although it makes little difference because the continuity of characters has little relevance to things. But again they just don't seem to have any enthusiasm for the roles, it almost feels like that none of the main stars wanted to be there and were basically going through the motions.
Aside from the main stars and characters there are a fair few recognizable faces which crop up. William Zabka from "The Karate Kid" turns up as Audrey's boyfriend and during the Griswold's trip to the UK we get the likes of Mel Smith, Maureen Lipman, Robbie Coltrane and Eric Idle showing up as minor characters although for some strange reason Eric Idle's character shows up in other countries as well.
What this all boils down to is that "National Lampoon's European Vacation" is not a patch on the first movie and is frankly quite disappointing. It doesn't really have a storyline and as such it turns into a series of loosely related set piece gags which are not that amusing and are at times a little offensive as they make fun of cultural stereotypes. It does have a few funny moments but for the most it's weak and slightly boring.