(On DVD, February 2017) As the fourth entry in an uneven series, Vegas Vacation is no more and no less than average. The chuckles are there as the Griswold family takes a trip to Las Vegas, but the film struggles to have anything akin to the memorable sequences of the previous films. While better than European Vacation, it doesn’t reach the comedy heights of Christmas Vacation, nor attains the archetypical Americana of the first film. Chevy Chase’s doofus-dad character is very familiar by now, and if Beverly d’Angelo only seems to become more attractive with age, her character doesn’t have much to do except flirt with Wayne Newton. Some sequences are terrible (such as the Hoover Dam segment) while others are mildly amusing (such as the boy being an incredibly lucky gambler). The ending, appropriately enough for a final movie in a series, triumphantly sends off the Griswold family in the sunset with a drive home that could have been a movie in its own right. By far the most average and featureless film in the series, Vegas Vacation is worth a look if it’s in the same DVD case as the other movies of the series—otherwise, well, there are funnier film out there.
(On Cable TV, January 2017) Whew. There’s no doubt that Hair is a product of the seventies—if you try hard enough, you will even smell the decade through the film. A ham-fisted musical about hippies facing down the establishment, Hair struggles with caricatures, ludicrous plot twists, outdated messages and the inescapable conclusion that the hippies never amounted to much. (I kid, but not too much: In the great hippies-versus-establishment debate, I side firmly with The Man.) Only three songs register in mind: The title track is catchy, while “Age of Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In” have become seventies classic in their own right. This is a classic musical in the purest sense—meaning that people who can’t stand musicals won’t be convinced by this one either. This being said, there is something almost charming in seeing the 1970 (ish) re-creation of New York City, and the 20,000 extras used for the Central Park sequence make for a few jaw-dropping sequences. Milos Forman knows how to shoot a big movie, and while John Savage is a bit dull as the clean-cut protagonist, Treat Williams is a bit better as a hippie, and Beverly D’Angelo is memorable as an uptown girl. Calling Hair a product of the late seventies is a bit misleading, as it clearly channels the obsessions of 1968 America better than the disco era. But it’s definitely a trip through the time machine and even if it’s unequal, it does have a few moments of brilliance.
(In French, Fourth or fifth viewing, December 2016) Surprisingly enough, I can’t find a review of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation in my files even though I must have watched it a handful of times before. Heck, the film has even become a Christmas tradition in my household. What’s not to love about it? It’s an itemized look at the excesses of Christmas for the middle-class, deftly zigzagging between cynical laughs and exasperated sentiment. It’s a collection of memorable sequences, each of them madcap and taken to the limits. (My hands-down favourite: the “Squirrel!” sequence) It’s a showcase for Chevy Chase, who reprises his role as the Griswold patriarch, but gives him added depth by staying home. For men, it’s an excuse to look at the combined charms of Nicolette Sheridan, Beverly D’Angelo’s green outfit and eighties-chic Julia Louis-Dreyfus. It remains very funny even today, and I suspect that its timeless charm only makes it feel even more relevant nowadays. Worth seeing again; worth seeing every year.