Thursday, August 19, 2010

National Lampoon's European Vacation Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 18.4 GB
Film Size: 18.2 GB
Film Rating: PG-13
Region: ABC
The Video
National Lampoon’s European Vacation comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p VC-1 video presentation. The film doesn’t look particularly amazing on Blu-ray, but there is upgrade to be had, although not always as much as with National Lampoon’s Vacation.

This time the film looks a bit more dated, colors a bit more subdued but fine. The level of detail is nice throughout, but there are sequences which look fairly bland and undefined. The film’s grain is all here and luckily no DNR or edge enhancement has been included for the release.

Comparing the Blu-ray release to the DVD was interesting. Some scenes did not feature that much of an upgrade to be honest, while other scenes had a very clear difference. The film definitely looks very dated in high-definition, but then again the film always has looked dated.

The transfer was free of any technical issues; the issues were really with the source itself. Before release, I imagined the film would not look very good in high-definition and while I wouldn’t say it looks bad, it doesn’t stand out compared to your average catalog release.

Ultimately this is a hard transfer to judge. The video presentation isn’t entirely appealing, but certainly respectable. The high-def encode itself didn’t have any issues and maybe we have to accept that the film really won’t look much better than it does now. Perhaps a slight clean up would have been appropriate, but even then I don’t think it would have made for a drastic difference whatsoever.

Ultimately National Lampoon’s European Vacation looks fine on Blu-ray. I can’t say I was ever amazed, but there are some good looking moments throughout and does provide a pretty decent upgrade from the previous DVD release, especially when compared on my high-def projector. 7/10.

The Audio
An English 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track is the lossless option included. French, German, Castellano and Spanish 1.0 Dolby Digital audio tracks are also included. English (SDH), French, German (SDH), Castellano, Spanish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish subtitle options are included.

The audio is luckily uncompressed, but unfortunately doesn’t do much for this very dated audio track. Dialogue is perhaps the most disappointing aspect. While dialogue is generally easy to understand it does sound quite flat and lifeless overall.

The film’s music and effects are a bit more impressive. Everything goes on front and center, but for the most part everything was quite easy to understand, I just had issues with dialogue sounding quite muddy from time to time.

The audio is what it is; I don’t think much could/can be done to help improve what is included on the Blu-ray release. Yes it sounds incredibly dated, but perhaps this is as good as it gets for the comedy. Overall the mix gets the job done, but don’t go in expecting to be impressed whatsoever by this comedy. 6/10.

The Extras

Audio Commentary
By Chevy Chase.

An audio commentary is the only extra included on this Blu-ray release. The commentary while decent is far less entertaining than the one found on the first Vacation film. I do wish new extras were included, but this was a just a random catalog release after all. 1/10.

The Movie
The Griswolds are back on another wacky vacation, this time in Europe in National Lampoon’s European Vacation. The film comes two years after the original Vacation film and both Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo reprise their roles, but the kids have been replaced (I actually like the switch).

Also new to the series is Director Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless, Look Who’s Talking). The screenplay is once again written by the late John Hughes. The film starts off with the Griswold family participating in a game show called ‘A Pig in a Poke’ as they attempt to win the grand prize. I find the opening sequence to be one of my favorites from the Vacation films.

The European Vacation isn’t as widely loved as the original Vacation film, but I certainly loved it. Yes, the humor doesn’t always work and many scenes could have been much funnier, but there are still plenty of laughs to be had by this second outing.

As I said, the humor mostly delivers, but there just are times when it was plain dumb or underwhelming. The dream sequences while on the plane for instance, I also thought Ellen Griswold’s reaction in the hotel bathtub scene was entirely underwhelming. The anticipation of her realizing who was in the bathroom was great, but her reaction when she realizes could have been much funnier.

Despite the film’s shortcomings compared to the original, there is also plenty to love about the movie. The kids I actually enjoyed more this time around, I especially loved Audrey Griswold (Played by the late Dana Hill) and her overemotional/clinger personality.

The film while not as great as the original is certainly enjoyable for what it is. The film is loved by many and I think most that enjoyed the original will also like European Vacation. The movie may not be as relatable to U.S. audiences as the original Vacation film, but I still think this is one super fun and wacky adventure. 8/10.

The Blu-news Summary
National Lampoon’s European Vacation is a fun follow-up to the first Vacation film, the Blu-ray release features a satisfying video presentation and decent audio tracks. Extras are once again lacking, but they always have been unfortunately. Overall the Blu-ray is ‘Recommended’ to fans of the film who can find it for a low price and ‘Worth a Look’ to all others.

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