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St. Louis based banker Roger Hobbs is writing a letter to his wife, Peggy Hobbs, about his true feelings concerning their just returned from month long vacation, the letter to be opened only after his death, whenever that may be. Mr. Hobbs wanted the vacation to be a romantic getaway for two, but Peggy insisted that it be a family vacation to a central California beach-side house, given to them for the month by friends. The vacation included all their offspring, and their offspring's respective families where applicable. Hobbs hated the idea as he felt he didn't know his offspring - and their spouses even less - and that they, in turn, no longer needed him. They include: daughter Susan Carver, who, with her husband, Stan Carver, have a permissive parenting style as per the latest child psychology books; daughter Janie Grant, whose husband, college professor, Byron Grant, has an academic view of everything in life; fourteen year old daughter, Katey Hobbs, who is self conscious around ... Written by
There is nothing wrong or bad about this film; the cast is strong, and the writing acceptable. The problem, frankly, is that it is just not that interesting. However, if we approach this film without high expectations, then we can accept it for what it is: a mildly amusing movie that allows us to sit comfortably with two of our all-time favorite actors, Jimmy Stewart and Maureen O'Hara (although, to be honest, Maureen is not that interesting here either). So, if you love Jimmy Stewart, and want to make a point of seeing every movie he is in, then definitely watch this movie. But be prepared to have to put up with unappealing child actors, badly dated 1960's "teen scenes", and a number of other actors and actresses who we never particularly care about. Luckily, very few scenes indeed do not feature Jimmy Stewart.
Well, I take some of that back; "Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation" is saved towards the end by the appearance of John McGiver and Marie Wilson as Mr. and Mrs. Turner, a business couple who make a point of being very dull. They are actually pretty funny, especially McGiver, and the scenes featuring these actors save the whole movie from being a completely dreary waste of time. To be fair, Fabian is not bad either, playing his role rather sympathetically; and the family's 1960 Dodge wagon, with its fantastically distinctive grill, is also cool to see.
Particularly annoying is a lengthy sequence in which Jimmy Stewart and his son are piloting a sailboat out of a harbor; this they do with great difficulty, barely missing hitting other boats, and upsetting a water-skier. The problem is, Stewart and his boat are clearly sitting in front of a projection screen. Now I understand that it is much easier and cheaper to film scenes sometimes in front of a projection screen; scenes with people "walking down the street", when they are actually in front of a movie screen showing the sidewalk, are common and harmless enough. But here, the humor of the situation completely depends on us believing that Stewart is hardly able to control his boat, causing several near misses with other boats. The fakeness of the projection is so obvious that the whole scene is just a painfully long (over 2 minutes of this) debacle.
The beach scenes are odd too. Valerie Varda, a Hungarian-born actress, has an accent that is definitely not Hungarian (I grew up surrounded by Hungarians, and can pick up the accent across a room). I don't know what the accent is, but it is very hard to follow; she had a blessedly short acting career after this film. John Saxon appears in a bathing suit, with a shockingly well-built body (if I may say so), and it appears that, though he is married to Jimmy Stewart's daughter, he is on the verge of having an affair with Varda; in the end, though, this idea is not pursued.
One final note: when Stewart's family enters the massive yet run-down vacation house, Stewart goes to climb the stairs; as he takes the first step, he grabs the large knob on top of the railing, and it lifts right up. He stares at it a moment before replacing it; I have to believe that this moment was intended to pay some minor homage to "It's a Wonderful Life", where a similar stair-railing knob comes to symbolizes the crumminess of Stewart's home in that film.
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