Odd that the theme song for these films is “Holiday Road” and so far in the series, they haven’t acknowledged any holidays except for the yuletide season. Much to my chagrin, the Pig in a Poke jingle is catchy. However, the first signpost of errantly unsavory jollity in the inferior, redundantly lewd European Vacation is when the host John Astin passionately kisses Audrey (the nasally Dana Hill) in a distinctly predatory, creepy way.
As before, Chevy is the lifeblood of the franchise with his oblivious Father Knows Best routine. Amy Heckerling is clearly a novice at farce insomuch as she sprains herself early on with a botched Looney Tunes visual gag where Clark’s face is nearly cauterized by a BBQ flame. The grill flames are too low and the cartoonish soot on Clark is not broad enough. She simply cannot grasp slapstick for a supposedly hip female director.
The daydream of Ellen and Clark cavorting with the Royal monarchy is bizarre because it hardly broaches a punchline. Same goes for Rusty’s (the unsightly Jason Lively) nightclub fantasy. Audrey’s nightmare of body dysmorphia is a declawed remix on the Mr. Creosote skit. To top it off, the Sound of Music parody would be more apropos for a lame Family Guy episode.
The notion of the reverse passenger-driver seating and careening on the wrong side of the road is a more affable observation than outright hysterical. More than anything, the Griswolds are no longer the quintessential family; they’re the ugly-American archetypes. Clark’s tour guide factoids about the Stonehenge and Buckingham Palace are typically oafish.
This subsequently is the only theatrical sequel which doesn’t contain Randy Quaid’s buoyantly bawdy trailer-trash Cousin Eddie and it definitely suffers for it. In his place is the recurring character of Eric Idle’s The Bike Rider who is the laughingstock of the Griswolds’ recklessly dunderheaded streak (the geyser of blood squirting from his wrist (“Just a flesh wound”) is blissfully funny gallows humor on the wavelength of Monty Python).
How could John Hughes the originator of the series be so dreadfully wrongheaded on this international trip? The potshots at transatlantic culture are sordidly mean-spirited (the snobbish French waiter), it doesn’t possess warm-hearted pathos beneath its breastplate and there is no destination point for the Griswolds, just a caterpillar of sloppy episodes. Already in their sophomore slump, this could’ve been the cessation of the Griswolds’ travelogue monkeyshines.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5