Movie Review: The Big Sick

“The Big Sick” is one of those movies that sneaks its way into the theater over the summer, when all the franchises and blockbusters are battling in a death match to see who will triumph at the box office and sticks around because it’s so good and unlike your typical blockbuster. Like “The Way Way Back,” a few years ago, it’s a heartwarming story of people who the viewer can actually picture running into in real life, but with a sting in its tail. As you might expect from the title, it does feature a major character who becomes seriously, well, sick – and if you prefer to remain in doubt over whether they make it to the credits, I’m afraid that this review contains spoilers.

“The Big Sick,” is actually based on a real-life couple, here played by Kumail Nanjiani, a Pakistani American who works as a Uber driver by day and a struggling (is there any other kind?) comedian at night, and Zoe Kazan, a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who is studying to become a therapist. It’s also based on a real-life scenario – the inspirations for this did go through the whole coma thing, which removed my last objection to the movie: that the set-up seemed a bit Hollywoodish. The two meet after Zoe “heckles” Kumail inadvertently by yelling out something positive during his act; he later explains to her that heckling qualifies as either positive or negative. “What if I yelled out something like, “He’s really good in bed,?” she retorts, which sets off a string of adorable banter, dates that aren’t supposed to really be dates, and finally, a misunderstanding surrounding Kumail’s “secret” romantic life. This refers to the fact that his mother is determined to fix him up with a suitable marriage partner and keeps inviting young women over when he’s there having family meals. (Apparently, there are an amazing number of model-worthy women of the desired ethnic origin all free to be vetted by Kumail’s rabidly eager family.)  When Kumail explains that he will be shunned by his family if he doesn’t follow the traditional path (marriage and law school), Zoe is conflicted, and the two temporarily part.

Spoiler alert! Act Two involves Kumail giving permission (sort of) for Zoe to be put in a medically induced coma, which does not please her parents (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter), but eventually, since there are medical complications, this paves the way for bonding between the three. With Zoe temporarily out of the picture, the zaniness is dialed back a few notches, but her parents soon prove to be almost as eccentric as her. There is a happy ending eventually, although there are enough realistic twists and turns on the way there, that “The Big Sick” never feels saccharine. If a movie revolving around a girlfriend in a coma sounds like this can’t be avoided, the viewer is likely to be pleasantly surprised.

A Look Back: Silver Linings Playbook

After his last two movies – “Hit and Run,” and “The Words,” didn’t shine at the box office,  Bradley Cooper probably had his fingers crossed that “Silver Linings Playbook,” which came out later in that year, would prove true the adage that the third time is the charm. Indeed it was. “Silver Linings Playbook” is based on a book (which I haven’t read), but when it arrived on the big screen, it proved to be a mashup of several movie genres. In fact at times, it appeared to have Multiple Personality Disorder (fitting because the protagonist – Bradley – suffers from mental illness), veering from the “Troubled Young Man Gets Therapeutic Guidance,” to “Troubled Young Man Returns Home to Wacky Ethnic Clan,” to “Troubled Young Man Meets Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and Enters the Big Dance Contest Which is Inconveniently Held At the Same Time as Another Major Event in the Movie.” But, it has a lot of big stars and relies on tried-and-true (even if threadbare) scenarios, and so mostly works

The beginning of the movie strongly resembles “Garden Space,” as both protagonists (Bradley here, and Zach Braff in “GS”) return home as the prodigal son, who will shortly go off his meds (against advice) and remain off. But while Braff just had your stereotypical Distant Dad, Bradley has two concerned parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver), plus a brother (Shea Wigham). He also has a therapist (Anupam Kher) who wastes no time employing devious “therapeutic” techniques such as playing the same music that Bradley heard when he caught his wife (Brea Bee) with another guy, thus engaging in behavior that led to Brea getting a restraining order. (With shrinks like that, who needs enemies?) To round out the picture, Bradley has a loyal friend (Chris Tucker) who will later teach him the rhythm he needs to compete seriously in aforementioned dance contest, and the aforementioned MPDG (Jennifer Lawrence) who any sane viewer can see isn’t suitable, which makes the two, in movie terms, destined to be together.

Bradley and Jennifer spend most of the movie sparring and then making up, while Robert and his bookie friend make a complex bet which somehow entails Bradley getting a certain score in the dance contest. Of course, there are complications on the way to the competition, which involve Robert doing something even more devious than Anupam to ensure his son arrives there. (Spoiler: Pretending Brea will be there.) Surprisingly, it all works out in the end, and “Silver Linings Playbook,” deserves credit for (spoiler) not having the pair win the contest. But the viewer may be forgiven for wondering if the “cures” for Bradley’s ailments are not ultimately going to make him worse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Movie Review: Dunkirk

 

It could be said that Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk,” which opens today in a variety of formats, has pretty much only three variations on the following scenes: a) Men struggling to withstand enemy fire on a beach, b) Men struggling to keep their heads literally above water as they battle the sea and c) Men huddled together in a ship struggling to do both a) and b). This isn’t meant as a criticism, however, because they are all reliably drama-packed and historically (I think) accurate. Historical accuracy is also why I spotted only one non-white soldier and two women, one of whom did manage to get in a few lines, but World War II wasn’t known for being politically correct. “Dunkirk,” is the story of how stranded British and French soldiers in 1940 at a seaside town, were rescued from being persecuted by German fighters. It’s an ensemble picture – we switch among a few key characters, though we don’t get much backstory for any of them, and most of it involves men fighting for survival. We don’t get inspiring Oscar-worthy speeches, just a lot of blood, grit and tears as the characters work together to execute a successful rescue. It’s also very loud – literally – at certain points, I could feel the explosions in my backrest.

“In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons,” a character in last year’s “Hacksaw Ridge,” notes at one point. In “Dunkirk,” we’re introduced to a father (Mark Rylance) who takes his two young sons with him on his yacht for the purpose of rescuing British soldiers at the title site. When they rescue a stranded soldier (Cillian Murphy), he insists that they turn around, which they disregard, but not without a cost. Tom Hardy plays a fighter pilot who tries to prevent the enemy planes from doing any more harm than they already have. The crew present is doing everything it can, but for a long time, the odds appear grim. Other characters are played by Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles and Lee Armstrong, but because of all the grime accumulated and the fact that some characters lack Christian names, I can’t say for sure who was who. However, all the cast does a solid job, and Rylance, in particular, is a standout.

At the end, when the returning veterans are sitting in a train, bedraggled but triumphant, one reads aloud from Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s speech, i.e. the famous one that begins, “We shall fight them in the streets.” The viewer may experience deja vu at this point, if the pre-film trailers include “Darkest Hour,” a Churchill biopic starring Gary Oldman, which includes this speech as well. Due to the subject matter, it’s the kind of movie where you tell people that you didn’t exactly “enjoy” it, but are glad you saw it and learned some history to boot. Just bring along a pair of earplugs if you’ve sensitive ears.

It could be said that Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk,” which opens today in a variety of formats, has pretty much only three variations on the following scenes: a) Men struggling to withstand enemy fire on a beach, b) Men struggling to keep their heads literally above water as they battle the sea and c) Men huddled together in a ship struggling to do both a) and b). This isn’t meant as a criticism, however, because they are all reliably drama-packed and historically (I think) accurate. Historical accuracy is also why I spotted only one non-white soldier and two women, one of whom did manage to get in a few lines, but World War II wasn’t known for being politically correct. “Dunkirk,” is the story of how stranded British and French soldiers in 1940 at a seaside town, were rescued from being persecuted by German fighters. It’s an ensemble picture – we switch among a few key characters, though we don’t get much backstory for any of them, and most of it involves men fighting for survival. We don’t get inspiring Oscar-worthy speeches, just a lot of blood, grit and tears as the characters work together to execute a successful rescue. It’s also very loud – literally – at certain points, I could feel the explosions in my backrest.

“In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons,” a character in last year’s “Hacksaw Ridge,” notes at one point. In “Dunkirk,” we’re introduced to a father (Mark Rylance) who takes his two young sons with him on his yacht for the purpose of rescuing British soldiers at the title site. When they rescue a stranded soldier (Cilian Murphy), he insists that they turn around, which they disregard, but not without a cost. Tom Hardy plays a fighter pilot who tries to prevent the enemy planes from doing any more harm than they already have. The crew present is doing everything it can, but for a long time, the odds appear grim. Other characters are played by Fionn Whitehead and Lee Armstrong, but because of all the grime accumulated and the fact that some characters lack Christian names, I can’t say for sure who plays who. However, all the cast does a solid job, and Rylance, in particular, is a standout.

At the end, when the returning veterans are sitting in a train, bedraggled but triumphant, one reads aloud from Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s speech, i.e. the famous one that begins, “We shall fight them in the streets.” The viewer may experience deja vu at this point, if the pre-film trailers include “Darkest Hour,” a Churchill biopic starring Gary Oldman, which includes this speech as well. Due to the subject matter, it’s the kind of movie where you tell people that you didn’t exactly “enjoy” it, but are glad you saw it and learned something to boot. Just bring along a pair of earplugs if you’ve sensitive ears.

It could be said that Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk,” which opens today in a variety of formats, has pretty much only three variations on the following scenes: a) Men struggling to withstand enemy fire on a beach, b) Men struggling to keep their heads literally above water as they battle the sea and c) Men huddled together in a ship struggling to do both a) and b). This isn’t meant as a criticism, however, because they are all reliably drama-packed and historically (I think) accurate. Historical accuracy is also why I spotted only one non-white soldier and two women, one of whom did manage to get in a few lines, but World War II wasn’t known for being politically correct. “Dunkirk,” is the story of how stranded British and French soldiers in 1940 at a seaside town, were rescued from being persecuted by German fighters. It’s an ensemble picture – we switch among a few key characters, though we don’t get much backstory for any of them, and most of it involves men fighting for survival. We don’t get inspiring Oscar-worthy speeches, just a lot of blood, grit and tears as the characters work together to execute a successful rescue. It’s also very loud – literally – at certain points, I could feel the explosions in my backrest.

“In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons,” a character in last year’s “Hacksaw Ridge,” notes at one point. In “Dunkirk,” we’re introduced to a father (Mark Rylance) who takes his two young sons with him on his yacht for the purpose of rescuing British soldiers at the title site. When they rescue a stranded soldier (Cilian Murphy), he insists that they turn around, which they disregard, but not without a cost. Tom Hardy plays a fighter pilot who tries to prevent the enemy planes from doing any more harm than they already have. The crew present is doing everything it can, but for a long time, the odds appear grim. Other characters are played by Fionn Whitehead and Lee Armstrong, but because of all the grime accumulated and the fact that some characters lack Christian names, I can’t say for sure who plays who. However, all the cast does a solid job, and Rylance, in particular, is a standout.

At the end, when the returning veterans are sitting in a train, bedraggled but triumphant, one reads aloud from Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s speech, i.e. the famous one that begins, “We shall fight them in the streets.” The viewer may experience deja vu at this point, if the pre-film trailers include “Darkest Hour,” a Churchill biopic starring Gary Oldman, which includes this speech as well. Due to the subject matter, it’s the kind of movie where you tell people that you didn’t exactly “enjoy” it, but are glad you saw it and learned something to boot. Just bring along a pair of earplugs if you’ve sensitive ears.

It could be said that Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk,” which opens today in a variety of formats, has pretty much only three variations on the following scenes: a) Men struggling to withstand enemy fire on a beach, b) Men struggling to keep their heads literally above water as they battle the sea and c) Men huddled together in a ship struggling to do both a) and b). This isn’t meant as a criticism, however, because they are all reliably drama-packed and historically (I think) accurate. Historical accuracy is also why I spotted only one non-white soldier and two women, one of whom did manage to get in a few lines, but World War II wasn’t known for being politically correct. “Dunkirk,” is the story of how stranded British and French soldiers in 1940 at a seaside town, were rescued from being persecuted by German fighters. It’s an ensemble picture – we switch among a few key characters, though we don’t get much backstory for any of them, and most of it involves men fighting for survival. We don’t get inspiring Oscar-worthy speeches, just a lot of blood, grit and tears as the characters work together to execute a successful rescue. It’s also very loud – literally – at certain points, I could feel the explosions in my backrest.

“In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons,” a character in last year’s “Hacksaw Ridge,” notes at one point. In “Dunkirk,” we’re introduced to a father (Mark Rylance) who takes his two young sons with him on his yacht for the purpose of rescuing British soldiers at the title site. When they rescue a stranded soldier (Cilian Murphy), he insists that they turn around, which they disregard, but not without a cost. Tom Hardy plays a fighter pilot who tries to prevent the enemy planes from doing any more harm than they already have. The crew present is doing everything it can, but for a long time, the odds appear grim. Other characters are played by Fionn Whitehead and Lee Armstrong, but because of all the grime accumulated and the fact that some characters lack Christian names, I can’t say for sure who plays who. However, all the cast does a solid job, and Rylance, in particular, is a standout.

At the end, when the returning veterans are sitting in a train, bedraggled but triumphant, one reads aloud from Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s speech, i.e. the famous one that begins, “We shall fight them in the streets.” The viewer may experience deja vu at this point, if the pre-film trailers include “Darkest Hour,” a Churchill biopic starring Gary Oldman, which includes this speech as well. Due to the subject matter, it’s the kind of movie where you tell people that you didn’t exactly “enjoy” it, but are glad you saw it and learned something to boot. Just bring along a pair of earplugs if you’ve sensitive ears.

A Look Back: Cloud Atlas

In “Wolf of Wall Street,” there’s a running gag in which Leonardo DiCaprio’s character asks various people to “sell me this pen.” Of course, none of them could sell a pen to someone who needs to sign a loan for a million dollars pronto and had no other writing implements, as simple as it sounds, but I thought of it when I decided to write a review of the movie “Cloud Atlas,” and wanted to come up with a catchy quick description: “It’s X Meets Y.” I thought this would be easy, but alas this stumped me. But I can answer other questions to explain it, should the need arise.

Q: OK, then, what about summing up the subject of “Cloud Atlas” in one word?

A: Reincarnation. And while there are movies out there on this topic, none attempt to cram six stories into a single movie.

Q: Why would anyone attempt that in the first place?

A: Because it’s based on the eponymous novel by David Mitchell, a British author who is a genius, but unfortunately, this doesn’t always translate onscreen. Each section is divided into two parts, so you get twelve sections overall in the book. However, the movie version switches around quite a bit, and you may feel lost if you’ve never read the book. Because each section features a whole new cast of characters, plus each takes place in a different era including a future dystopia and an even more future world (which is far more primitive than the first future).

Q: Whew. How long did it take you to figure out what was going on?

A: About an hour into the movie. More or less, without having read the novel. In addition, the characters are played by a handful of rotating actors who, even disguised, are more or less recognizable, depending on the makeup and costume job. To jazz things up, one even plays a minor role in drag.

Q: I’m already confused.

A: Just wait until you see the movie! Anyway, story one is about a naïve young man (Jim Sturgess) who faints while wandering around in the wilderness circa 1830’s and is taken under the care of his ship’s doctor (Tom Hanks) who pretends to be helpful but who actually has questionable motives. Luckily, Keith David intervenes and teaches Jim an important lesson about prejudice.

Q: So Tom stretches and plays a bad guy. Anyone else?

A: Tom also plays a primitive cave-man type in the future who is tormented by visions of an evil spirit (Hugo Weaving), but is helped by the aid of a kindly primitive woman (Halle Berry). Tom is perpetually agitated, but because he speaks in a dialect and sounds like he has a mouthful of mud, it takes awhile to figure out why. Luckily, once the viewer gets a vision of Hugo, too, all doubt vanishes.

Q: Who else does Halle play?

A: Her biggest role is Luisa Rey, a naïve but determined young woman, who stumbles into a 70’s-era mystery and risks her life to solve it to satisfy her deceased journalist father.

Q: Wait, how does any of this tie in with…

A: Halle’s story is eventually condensed into a detective novel which is sent in a fourth segment to Jim Broadbent, who plays a curmudgeonly publisher who, after going to his brother to ask for help with debt, is incarcerated in a nursing home as revenge, and must stage a dramatic breakout involving several other residents. His story in turn makes it into a movie, which is later viewed in a future dystopia by Doona Bae as a video.

Q: If you say so. What’s the difference between Doona’s future and Tom’s?

A: Doona plays a genetically engineered clone who is designed to work at a McDonald’s-like fast food joint for a certain number of years. However, she is recruited to become a more intelligent version of herself, and eventually, helps stage an uprising against the ruling class. In Tom’s future, everything has devolved, so it’s not unlikely you’ll think it’s supposed to be the past.

Q: What’s the final story?

A: Ben Wishaw plays a pianist who is post-humorously narrating the segment to his former boyfriend (James D’Arcy), about how he fell into the nefarious clutches of “mentor” (Jim Broadbent). At the end, he envisions breaking a lot of china, which is one of the movie’s many metaphors.

Q: So it’s like a Rubik’s Cube? Confusing, but once you start lining up the different sides, it gets simpler?

A: Exactly.

Q: Is there any shortcut to figuring out who the reincarnated characters are?

A: They all have a birthmark. Comet-shaped. Really.

Q: But what about the cloud atlas?

A: One character says it would be nice to have one. Really.

Q: Would you recommend it?

A: Only if you’ve read the book. Forcing someone to watch it otherwise is like throwing them in deep water unexpectedly without a life jacket.

Q: Thank you.

A: You’re welcome.

Movie Review: Spider-Man: The Homecoming

Those who go see “Spider Man: The Homecoming,” and have seen the prequels, sequels and whatnot will have an advantage over me. Which is to say, I’m sure the opening scene ties in nicely with “Captain America,” (and the various dates line up perfectly too), but since the last version of this franchise that I saw featured Tobey Maguire as Spider Man, I can only describe it in basic terms. Michael Keaton is busy cleaning up with a crew after what appears to be a natural disaster of some kind. He’s soon interrupted by no-nonsense Tyne Daly and her crew, who got their instructions from no less a luminary than Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), who is more or less Spider Man’s (Tom Holland’s) boss. Without further ado, Tyne vanquishes Michael, at least temporarily, who retreats to his lair of brooding evil genius to boss around his minions, who are busy crafting high-tech weapons that they hope will ultimately defeat Spider Man. But Tom has more immediate adolescent concerns, such as bullies (Tony Revolori), extracurriculars, and older girls (Laura Harrier) who seem to exist in a separate galaxy. To complicate matters, he feels patronized by Robert and his other mentor (Jon Favreau), plus his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) has become suspicious of her nephew’s frequent absences. So he has a lot on his plate.

During one mission as New York’s “friendly, neighborhood Spider Man,” Tom gets a shock when he attempts to thwart a robbery and is overpowered by some unusual high tech weapons that cause him to wonder just who and what is their source. (Hint: It’s nefarious.) When his best friend (Jacob Batalon), who is overly interested in Tom’s “internship” with Tony Stark and who manages to uncover Tom’s secret, finagles an invitation to a party at Laura’s house, the duo hopes (since Laura has a crush on Spider Man) to increase their coolness quotient, but dang, if Tom doesn’t get called away on a mission. Then it’s off to Washington, D.C. for the national academic decathalon – and oddly enough, Tom’s superheroing duties manage to get in the way of that – but there’s a happy ending. But it’s only halfway through the movie, so there are more showdowns – the last coinciding with the school Homecoming Dance. It all culminates in Tom having to fall back on his more low-tech Spidey suit, as he jumps on trains and straddles flaming laser beams heading directly for Coney Island. Basically, Tom does a lot of the stuff the lead in “The Promise” does escaping from prison camp, only without the sobering true-life backstory (and a lot more special effects).

Along the way, of course, Tom learns lessons about humility and friendship (his pal turns out to be a pretty good “guy in the chair” when it comes to providing backup during a mission). Sadly, he does not get the girl – who is extremely smart about everything except tying Tom to his alter ego, but there’s probably a sequel to come. “Spider-Man: The Homecoming,” is predictably PG-oriented fun for the whole family – even if the length it runs probably means at least one popcorn and bathroom break during it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Look Back: Bend It Like Beckham

If you happen to be the parent of a British teenager – even one who’s eighteen – circa 2000, there are probably a few things that you would prefer he or she didn’t do behind your back. Such as

a) Over-consumption of recreational substances.

b) Certain acts with one’s boyfriend or girlfriend.

c) Visitation of certain places at certain hours.

d) Playing football (soccer to Americans) in the park with one’s bare legs showing.

Of course, choice d) only rings true if you are the daughter of two traditionally Sikh parents, who believe that modesty of attire and marriage to a proper young man are the fastest routes to happiness, as Parminder K. Nagra is in the movie “Bend It Like Beckham.” Her father (Anupam Kher) and mother (Shaheen Khan) only want what’s best for her, as most parents do, however, they’re soon to find that their wishes and their daughter’s are about to take a sharp diversion. While so far, Parminder (who is a heck of a talented athlete) has contented herself with the aforementioned football in the park (with boys no less!), after being spotted by fellow football fan, Jules, (Kiera Knightley), she lets herself be talked into trying out for a real all-women’s league, coached by the easy-on-the-eyes Joe (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), who she crushes on (along with Kiera). Her expertise impresses Jonathan and the other players, and soon Parminder is faced with the choice of whether or not to disobey her parents – even more. Kiera’s conflict with her mother (Juliet Stevenson) is slightly different – her mother fears that Kiera’s passion for football means she must be a lesbian – though Juliet’s fears are unfounded, this sets the stage for a series of misunderstandings that affect the movie’s plot.

Eventually, both young women get a taste of adventure when they travel with their teammates to Hamburg to play in a match. Meanwhile at home, Parminder’s family is preparing for a big Indian wedding, and manage not to miss her too much when she takes off. But eventually, a cardinal Movie Law: “That Two Climactic Events Occurring in the Big Finale Must Be Held at the Same Time” occurs, and Parminder must choose between the wedding and a match. Ultimately, however, she finds the courage to tell her father how she feels – and learns that he opposed her because he himself experienced discrimination when he joined a cricket club. Unsurprisingly, it’s a happy ending, and no one puts Parminder in the corner, as in the final scene, she’s about to jet off to the US to accept a sports scholarship. “Bend It Like Beckham,” is a lot of fun, if you like movies about young people struggling to individuate themselves from their colorful clan. It might even inspire you to try and bend the next movable object you encounter on a walk. You never know.

A Look Back: National Lampoon’s Vacation

Since “Spider-Man: Homecoming” was released today, and summer is prime time for sequels/reboots, it got me thinking about exactly when is right time is to end a movie franchise. Of course, if it’s based on a book series, you don’t have much choice – unless you split the last book in order to drag out the profits and your target audience’s participation. After that, you can get creative – with the author’s permission – and try prequels or spinoffs regarding side characters or their descendants. This can work on occasion, but it’s also how you wind up with movies like 2015’s “Vacation,” starring Ed Helms and Christina Applegate, in the roles originated by Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo in “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” one of those films where the less said about it, the better.

The original eighties’ movie (which is far superior) is based on a short story by John Hughes which was published in the National Lampoon Magazine. It’s narrated by the young son of a loving if not-too-bright father who just wants to take his family on a great – yes, vacation. Hilarity ensures, and after changing names, omitting several characters (including the Griswold family baby), and switching Disney to Walley World, it arrived on the big screen, somewhat less raunchy than originally intended, but still funny. In TV sitcom tradition, the wife is far better looking than her husband; and the kids, played by Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron, are occasionally required to act wise beyond their preteenish years when faced with their father’s incompetence. For various reasons, the two children’s names stay the same, but the actors portraying them change with each movie – prompting Chevy to make tongue-in-cheek remarks about hardly knowing his kids. In the sequel, they will jet off to Europe after winning a trivia game how contest, but right now, their high jinks are confined to the US.

En route to their destination, all the usual bad things happen – getting lost, having parts of the car stolen, the dog urinating on the picnic basket, etc., but things really take a downturn, when they arrive at “Uncle Eddie’s” (Randy Quaid) home, and the creepy thing we learn about Randy from his daughter is hardly the least of it. While Chevy gets to have a father-son talk with Anthony (and share a refreshing recreational beverage), the glow from this is eclipsed by the fact that they’ve now added two passengers – Aunt Edna (Imogene Coca) and a dog so nasty that no one is upset when it dies in a freak accident. Eventually, Imogene croaks, too – but since she’s even more vicious than the dog, this is not considered too much of a setback – and Chevy insists on finishing the trip anyway. Alas, Walley World turns out to be closed, but resourceful Chevy finds a way around this – which causes him to have a run-in with the law but still thrill his family (sort of). However, it’s likely they’ll need another vacation to recover from this one.

“NL’s Vacation,” kicked off the franchise, which included a spinoff with Uncle Eddie, as well as a planned-but-never-completed “Australian vacation.” I’m not sure what the high jinks in the script were, but imagine it might have had something to do with a dingo and a ruined picnic. While the cast changes, the perennial message: “A family vacation only works if you do it with your family,” stays timeless.