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Case Number 05846

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National Lampoon's Holiday Reunion

Fox // 2003 // 91 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // December 22nd, 2004

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson has four words for you: Judge. Reinhold. Shower. Scene.

The Charge

This family trip is no vacation (or Vacation for that matter).

Opening Statement

Judge Reinhold (Beverly Hills Cop) and Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle) team up in this latest turd from National Lampoon, a TV movie about crazy relatives and their crazy Thanksgiving holiday.

Facts of the Case

Mitch Snider (Reinhold) is a renowned anesthesiologist for celebrities. Despite being looked down upon by surgeons (does that really happen?), he's carved out a comfortable life for himself, his spoiled wife, his spoiled-er daughter, and his son. But his comfy living quarters and materialistic existence leaves him wanting more—specifically, an old-fashioned Thanksgiving dinner with his family.

Miraculously, he receives a letter from his long-lost cousin Woodrow Snider (Cranston) inviting him to a holiday reunion dinner. Mitch jumps at the invite, crams his family into their Mercedes SUV, and heads for Idaho.

>From the minute they pull in to the dilapidated house with a lawn strewn with washing machines, Mitch and his brood endure the white trash shenanigans of his cousin and his wacky family—his hippie flake wife (Penelope Ann Miller), his death-obsessed Goth chick daughter, and his lame-brained son.

Amidst awkward shower exchanges(a truly disturbing scene between Cranston and Reinhold), grand theft auto, misguided attempts at orgies, bacon-flavored gum, CGI-turkey hallucinations, and the final revelation of why Woodrow invited his cousin in the first place (trust me kids, you'll see this one coming), the true meaning of Thanksgiving will surface. And rest assured, People Will Learn Valuable Lessons.

The Evidence

National Lampoon is fast becoming a name I associate with "general unfunniness." The organization's recent track record with films isn't very spectacular, and with each subsequent half-baked college movie released, these guys are fast on the road to irrelevance—perhaps, if it hasn't happened yet, to the destination where their moniker is actually counterproductive.

Holiday Reunion is, I would say, 10 to 15% funny. Maybe that's all you ask for in a TBS original movie. If so, then you'll be cool with this. However, for everyone else out there, I'd suggest that a better time could be had by watching cicadas mate.

The movie is basically a ninety minute expansion of the Cousin Eddie scenes from Vacation. The formula is all there, with the "normal suburbanites" clashing with the "hick wackos." Sure, Woodrow and company have the hippie thing going; but trust me, its deja vu. As a result, it's difficult not to affix that most clichéd movie review buzzword: derivative. But it applies here. The filmmakers, recognizing that Cousin Eddie represented one of the more potent slices of National Lampoon history (enough that it would generate a large role in the atrocious Vegas Vacation as well as direct-to-video sequel to Christmas Vacation) decided to just ape all of that.

I would have preferred a more original idea, but even so, all the potential humor is milked out by uneven writing, nonsensical plot devices, and over-the-top hammy acting. Bryan Cranston decides to forgo the ignorant subtlety that Randy Quaid brought to a similar character over twenty years ago, and instead aims for over-expressive, gesticulating goofiness. Echhh, not good. Reinhold is decent as the neurotic straight man, but his juxtaposition with Cranston's delirious performance is too forced. And Penelope Ann Miller—yikes, what happened with that career?

All in all, the movie plays like a TV movie. And if that's not enough of a deterrent: it's a substandard TV movie.

The movie looks pretty good however. Color are vivid, and though the stock comes across as soft, overall picture quality is above average, especially considering it's not dual layer. There is a full screen transfer on one side, and a 1.78:1 widescreen transfer on the other. Sound comes via a surprising 5.1 Dolby Digital mix. While certainly not aggressive, it does more work than should be required for this type of movie. A promo for Arrested Development is the only bonus item—strangely enough, it's funnier than the feature it accompanies.

Closing Statement

I can't believe I used the word "juxtapose" with respect to a TBS comedy starring Judge Reinhold. This movie isn't even suitable for kids of all ages, as it includes some sexual content, and of course, that godforsaken shower scene (shudder). Okay, let's just go and say it's not suitable for anyone.

The Verdict

Like your Thanksgiving turkey, stuff this. Court adjourned.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 87
Audio: 89
Extras: 65
Acting: 71
Story: 65
Judgment: 65

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Comedy
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Arrested Development Promo


• IMDb

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