VEGAS VACATION A film review by Michael Redman Copyright 1997 Michael Redman
* (out of ****)
Years ago the announcement of a film starring Chevy Chase and produced by the hilarious "National Lampoon" magazine generated anticipation of a hilarious time. That was then, this is now.
The fourth "Vacation" film continues the downhill slide. The first movie featuring the Griswold family and their misadventures heading towards Wally World was a comedic hit. Based on that success, we've been subjected to the all-American "Father Knows Worst" family in Europe, at Christmas and now gambling their life savings away.
Remarkably enough, in a city that is a parody of everything American, the movie finds little to laugh at. It's one lame sight gag (in every sense of the word) after another. The Christy Brinkley in a convertible scene from the earlier film is even recycled with a meaningless punch line. Honed to a fine art on "Saturday Night Live", Chase's fumbling and bumbling are still well-timed, but now are old hat.
When the Griswolds arrive in the city of blinking lights, Clark (Chase) works desperately at being the worst gambler in the western hemisphere. His wife Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo) flirts with the notion of an affair with heartthrob Wayne Newton (played in his sleep by himself). Son Rusty (Ethan Embry, the fourth actor to portray the boy) picks up a fake ID from a street vendor and lucks his way into riches. Daughter Audrey (Marisol Nichols, also the fourth) learns social skills from her stripper cousin.
The sit-ups sound great and in another film might have been the basis for comedy. Here they lay the foundation for humor that is tepid at best.
The film promo shows a Hoover Dam tour guide. The pseudo-amusement is based on the similarity of the words "dam" and "damn". If you think that's feeble, remember: they pick the best for commercials.
Fortunately for the audience, there are a few high points. Randy Quaid returns in his role as cousin Eddie who has moved to a trailer in the midst of the scenic H-bomb testing grounds. Eddie is so upfront degenerate that he provides a welcome relief to the tedium.
The only truly funny scenes come when Clark wanders into a "different" type of casino. Specializing in Coin Toss, Rock-Paper-Scissors and Guess The Number; the establishment is what you might expect in Las Vegas on the Bizarro world. Even here, the struggling Mr. Griswold can't get a break. He loses the Coin Toss, although there may be some shady dealings since the players never see the result. He can't even guess the number between one and ten.
Futile hope springs eternal when a new "Vacation" film comes out, but to no avail. Hopefully this is the last of them to dash those hopes into the ground with its hobnailed boots of mediocrity. You never know, maybe that would force Chevy into choosing a movie with something more than potential.
Unless you're looking for something to waste your time, skip this. Wait until the video comes out, fast-forward for an hour and a half and watch the five minutes in the alien casino and then turn the machine off. You'll thank me forever.
[This appeared in The "Bloomington Voice", Bloomington, Indiana, 2/13/97. Michael Redman can be contacted at email@example.com ]
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