Judge Patrick Bromley is having great fun with the "nude scene index," causing France to surrender.
No actual Europeans were harmed in the making of this film.
Everything about this 2004 film—from the title (a bit reminiscent of Road Trip, eh?) to the producers (Ivan Reitman and Tom Pollock, who produced Road Trip, incidentally) to the ad campaigns (which slavishly reminded us that the film is from ta-da! "the producers of Road Trip…"…yet somehow Boat Trip is never brought up)—suggested that it would be the death rattle of the teen film resurgence. What is seldom mentioned is that it's not a teen film. It's a straight-up comedy, and a damn funny one at that.
Facts of the Case
It's graduation day, and senior Scott Thomas (Scott Mechlowicz, Neverland) has just been dumped by his girlfriend Fiona (Smallville's Kristin Kreuk). After a night of heavy drinking and a very public punk-rock mocking (care of Matt Damon, in one of the film's funniest scenes), Scott goes home to e-mail his long-time pen-pal Mieke (German pop star Jessica Böhrs), only to drunkenly spurn what he believes to be the German's homosexual advances. When he discovers that Mieke is actually a girl's name—and that she's quite hot to boot—Scott decides to enlist the help of his best friend, saddled with the unfortunate comedy-sidekick name of Cooper Harris (Jacob Pitts, K-19: The Widowmaker), to take off to Europe and find love with his pen-pal. The two boys also hook up with the vacationing twin team of Jamie (Travis Wester, Beverly Hills, 90210) and Jenny (Michelle Trachtenberg, Harriet the Spy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and together the foursome stomp across Europe dishing out some of that Ugly Americanism to every French Robot-Mime, Dutch Dominatrix and Creepy Italian Guy they come across.
Before the Bush administration raids my house and seizes my less-than-dependable computer for typing the phrase "Ugly American," I should point out that its placement here is quite deliberate and purposeful. No, I'm not some evil anti-patriot (like that damned Michael Moore); Ugly Americans was the original title for the film that ended up being called Eurotrip, for reasons you can pretty well imagine.
It might have been a fitting title, too. The writing/directing team behind the movie wisely decides to make its American protagonists the target of most of its humor. It would have been a too-easy comedic shortcut to make the film about four young people encountering the very worst European stereotypes cinema has to offer (though, for as funny as he is, I suppose Fred Armisen's "Mi Scuzzi" guy comes close). Instead, the film turns its comedy inward on its stars; when Scott and Jenny visit order brownies in Amsterdam, the joke seems like the obvious stab at Rastafarians and hash brownies, but quickly turns around to be about how desperately these two kids will pretend to be high. This isn't to say that the Americans in the film are slobbering idiots; I was just glad to see that no one group is portrayed as superior. Everyone is fair game.
I liked the American Pie films (well, the first two anyway), but not necessarily because they were achingly funny. Sure, there were some funny setpieces (some not so funny), and I admired the way the humor would often come out of the characters' personalities—which, incidentally, were far better drawn than most teen films. But specifically what made those films work—what gives them any kind of lasting power—is the sweetness with which they handle their respective romances: Chris Klein and Mena Suvari in American Pie; Jason Biggs and Alyson Hannigan in American Pie 2. That sweetness overshadowed the funny parts—and I mean that as a compliment.
So why am I going on about the American Pie series (well, the first two installments, anyway)? Because they're probably the best things to come out of that whole teen-movie comeback of recent years—and I wouldn't say they're half as funny as Eurotrip. Its interests lie in being a straight comedy, which is why it can avoid a lot of the "teen movie" pitfalls, and has no romantic subplot forced in (there is one, but it's more of a paper-thin plot thread). The movie really isn't that interested in developing its characters; unlike, say, the American Pie films (well, the first two, anyway) which gave us a few fully-realized and inspired comic creations—Seann William Scott's Stifler and Eddie Kaye Thomas's Finch among them—Eurotrip basically just gives us "types." It may help to explain the almost total lack of celebrity attached to the film—minus a few cameos, the biggest name in the movie is the chick who played Harriet the Spy (kudos to the directors, by the way, for showing the world that Trachtenberg has grown into one foxy-yet-elfin lady). I would argue that Eurotrip is better for it, too—rather than getting tripped up in any actorly stigma or audience expectations, the relative anonymity of the stars frees them up to go as far out on the edge as they would like. They're working without ego.
Eurotrip is the kind of comedy that tends to divide audiences. There's not really "something in it for everyone"—either you find its humor and tone funny or you don't, and if you don't, it could mean a long 90 minutes. While it does manage to celebrate both high- and lowbrow styles of humor, its concentration isn't simply on one or the other. It's the kind of comedy that understands that there are those of us who can appreciate both—often in the span of one sequence; while the lyrics to "Scotty Doesn't Know" are quite graphic and funny, it's the rather high-concept running gag that the song turns into that makes it work for me (listen late in the film to Cooper's cell phone ring).
There are three writers credited on Eurotrip (Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer), but only one director (Schaffer); that decision, a random number draw that determined who would take the helm, is recorded on videotape in the disc's supplemental section. Between the three creators, their credits include Seinfeld, The Larry Sanders Show, and Late Night with Conan O'Brien (plus the little-seen and very funny Clerks: The Animated Series—this film, like that show, is filled with movie-geek references), so one can get a pretty good idea of the comedic pedigree that Eurotrip comes from. If you, like anyone else who's incredibly intelligent (read: me), think that these shows are just about the best comedy has had to offer in the last decade (with a few exceptions—no Simpsons or Mr. Show), then you are the audience for Eurotrip.
It's commonplace these days to release about 18 versions of this kind of "raunchy comedy"—there's rated, unrated, widescreen, full screen, mint flavored, ad infinitum. Dreamworks hasn't yet bucked this trend with their release of Eurotrip, but for our purposes I'll be speaking specifically about the Unrated Widescreen cut of the film. Having seen the film when it was released theatrically, I can say fairly confidently that the Unrated Edition isn't a whole lot different; there's a bit more nudity, and some of the gags play out for a while longer, but that's about it. Dreamworks has, however, included a great feature as part of the disc—an Unrated scene selection index, which allows the viewer to jump to any scene that contains bonus footage (for the shameless, there's also a "nude scene" selection index).
The 1.85:1 anamorphic image on the disc is predictably solid, if nothing spectacular—there's some slight edge enhancement and an overall softness, but otherwise the picture looks great. Of the two English-speaking audio tracks (there is a 5.1 track in French, if you care to hear the film in the Robot Mime's native tongue), the Dolby 5.1 is preferable to the 2.0 track, if only because there seems to be a bit more going on. Neither will change your perception of DVD audio capabilities—or Europe, for that matter—but the 5.1 does seem to serve the film slightly better.
Though the words "Special Edition" do not appear anywhere on the disc's jacket (presumably because "special" doesn't imply nudity), there is a surprising amount of bonus material included here. In addition to some of the features already mentioned here (extra scene indexes, the "choosing a director" home video), the disc features a mess of deleted scenes—while most are funny and worth a look, they were wisely excised from the final cut. There's also an alternate ending which is considerably more downbeat; now matter how tacked-on the existing happy ending feels, it's still a major improvement. Both the deleted scenes and the alternate ending come with optional audio commentary from Berg, Mandel, and Schaffer, who also recorded two feature-length commentaries for the film. The first is more traditional, but really delivers what one hopes for in a commentary track—it's informative, features interesting and amusing anecdotes, and is infectiously funny all at the same time. The second track, labeled the "Party Along" commentary, is designed for "frat-house viewing." In celebration of the underage drinking, foul language, and nudity that run rampant throughout the film, the guys drink every time one of those three elements appears on screen. Drinking during a commentary recording session isn't a new concept—check out the track recorded by Trey Parker and Co. on Troma's Cannibal! The Musical for the best (and possibly first) example of this. While pretty funny at times, the second commentary is like being the only sober one at a party—it can get pretty laborious after a while.
Also featured on the disc is a gag reel, a brief featurette on the infamous "Nude Beach" sequence, a look at an actual bootleg copy of Eurotrip in circulation, some trailers, cast/filmmaker bios, and two videos for "Scotty Doesn't Know"—the first being a straightforward music video, and second being a "sing-along" video with lyrical prompts scrolling across the screen. Also featured—and I might be speaking out of turn when I say that this is the first time I've seen this on the actual disc's features, as opposed to any DVD-ROM content—is Eurotrip's script in its entirety.
Don't be fooled into thinking that Eurotrip is typical teen fare; it's one of the funniest films to come around in recent years.
Eurotrip is free to go. Don't tell Scotty.
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Scales of Justice
• Extended Unrated Footage
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