There is a lot wrong with European Vacation, a hastily developed sequel to the classic original. Most importantly, it has no point. The Griswolds, for some unknown reason spelled Griswalds in this sequel only, win a trip to Europe on a hokey game show.
They have nowhere to really go, no ultimate goal, and Clark (Chevy Chase) wearing a Wally World shirt through the first leg of their vacation is just a reminder of how great the original was. The movie is strained for laughs, taking seven minutes to exit the game show, wandering on the plane trip overseas with four completely pointless dream sequences, and then in London where Clark gets into three different accidents… all with the same punchline.
European Vacation has no driving story much like it has no laughs. It goes for the obvious gags, including the inevitable ones about driving on the wrong side of the road, but despite a script by John Hughes (and co-writer Robert Klane), offers nothing in its dialogue worth remembering.
In fact, the golden moment of the whole film is done with subtitles, the mistaken German relatives of the Griswolds baffled as to who their visitors where. This is of course goes nowhere, and ends up being an agonizing wait for an actual resolution.
It really has nothing to do with the change in casting, the kids replaced with two newcomers. Dana Hill and Jason Lively are fine as the younger kin of Clark and Ellen. They simply have nothing to do, given the same lethargic dialogue and meaningless character progression as their on-screen folks.
It’s baffling that the film even bothers with a story, interjecting a completely random criminal element in the final third which only serves to show off more European sites, including the Roman Coliseum. That’s much of the film, the family walking around, stopping at a landmark, doing something stupid, and then moving on. Oh, and there are montages too. Lots of montages. Anything that can kill time in this lifeless, empty sequel was a good thing to the producers.
Warner’s transfer for this sequel doesn’t quite have the spark the original did, lacking in terms of fine detail. In fact, the lackluster sights are actually a disappointment considering the variety on display. The opening scenes on the ridiculous game show are the only highlight, with the VC-1 encode handling the grain structure well (which it will for most of the film), and the fuzzy texture of the costumes easily standing out.
Colors remain bright throughout, creating a generally rich, vivid image. Black levels are stable as well, with fine shadow detail and a decent level of depth. Technically, it’s proficient. It remains consistently film like, bright, and the source material is absolutely perfect. There is not a speck of dirt, a scratch, or other anomaly to speak of.
There is simply no real high fidelity detail to take note on. A few extreme close-ups match the original (at least partially) such as Chase at 31:56, but most appear like D’Angelo at 1:19:34, soft and lackluster. To be fair, the latter seems to be a slight optical zoom, so take that into account. Fades and edits are typically greeted with heavier softness than the rest of the film, a technical limitation that is taken into account.
It remains those establishing shots, such as Paris at 35:10, that are a real shame. All of the major sights captured by this film, including the obviously fake Stonehenge, are lackluster and lifeless. It’s about as fun as the film gets, and the transfer, or maybe even the source, doesn’t hold firm.
Warner leaves well enough alone, providing a DTS-HD mono mix that is perfectly adequate for the source material. Like Vacation before it, the classic “Holiday Road” theme is near perfection, just a bit flat on the high end. The same goes for the rest of the music, whether during one of the many montages or dream sequences. It carries just enough life to get by and produce some noticeable fidelity improvement.
Dialogue is a bit flat by comparison, and certainly situated a bit low. Some of the louder moments carry a bit of a jolt. The dubbing becomes blatantly obvious, the infamous “Darn it!” after Chase blows a tire in the end a real stand-out even without the mismatched lips.
A commentary by Chase alone is definitely drab, but then the film doesn’t offer much to talk about anyway. That’s the only extra.