Jimmy Stewart stars as the befuddled old coot trying to cope with his crazy family for a month on the Pacific coast. This mostly unfunny comedy mines all the expected areas of the whole “can’t stand my family, but I love them anyway” school of film with results that are generally less than tepid. Jimmy’s character, Roger Hobbs, endures his children’s various problems while coping with the run down house they’re staying at, but manages to solve all their marital, employment, and self esteem issues with remarkable ease by the time he has to pack everyone back up to St. Louis.
Mrs. Hobbs has secured the use of a house out on the west coast and everyone is coming along whether they like it or not. The Hobbs family still has two ungrateful and moody brats living at home with them. There’s the girl who is very self-conscious of her new braces. We’ll call her Metal Mouth. Then there’s the boy who is addicted to TV. We’ll call him America’s Youth. Also joining them once they get out to the coast are two grown daughters and their families.
Each family comes with its own problem, but the most interesting thing is that one of the daughters is married to America’s favorite flesh-eating G.I., John Saxon! John amazed us when he went nuts in Cannibal Apocalypse and he amazes again as the uppity egghead college professor who has a hankering for the dumb, foreign blonde gal that’s malingering on the beach the Hobbs’ vacation home is perched upon.
The movie focuses on Roger’s reaction to the insanity that constantly assaults his senses during the time when he’s supposed to be relaxing. The house is one source of trouble the film weakly attempts to mine for laughs. There’s the expected problems such as the water not working correctly (this usually involves someone getting sprayed with a geyser of water from the kitchen sink), an impossibly complicated pump that Roger can’t figure out how to work, but the plumber fresh out of the neighbor’s cesspool has no problem with (cesspool is funny, right?), and various stairs, banisters, and doorknobs breaking off at inopportune times.
The problems with the house though are merely background noise on this vacation when compared to what a dysfunctional load of Hobbs DNA the rest of the family turns out to be.
Roger stands around trying to puzzle out what’s up with the failing marriages of his two grown daughters that includes one husband being unemployed and the grandchildren being undisciplined brats.
Roger also has to find a way to reach out to his young son and does so by taking him on a sail boat ride and getting so lost at sea that they almost die. That particularly uninvolving scene went on for so long that I was hoping they’d both start gulping ocean water until their tongues swelled up and they suffocated.
Roger also manages to solve Metal Mouth’s problem of not being liked by boys by forcing her to go to a dance and then paying every guy there five bucks to dance with her. One guy turns out to be Fabian and after taking Roger’s five bucks, discovers that he likes Metal Mouth enough to sing the hit song “Cream Puff” (a singularly hideous bit of tuneless trash) with her and return Roger’s five bucks!
Roger’s next problem to solve is the unemployed husband’s situation. Even though Roger’s son-in-law bailed out and went home earlier, he somehow has landed a job interview with General Research.
The only hitch is that the head of General Research himself has to okay him before he can get the job. This means he has to come down to Roger’s vacation house to hang out for a few days to see if the kid is suitable – even though the kid isn’t even there!
Roger goes bird watching with the guy and ends up beating him up later that night due to a misunderstanding involving this guy’s wife, Roger, and a steam valve in the bathroom. After this guy leaves in a huff the next morning, guess who calls up later to excitedly announce that he’s landed a job with General Research? Roger, your crazy scheming has paid off again!
Roger’s simple-minded and unconventional solutions to vexing and deep-seated issues are annoying partly because of how unrealistic they are, but mostly because they just aren’t that funny!
And is watching Jimmy Stewart walking weirdly while looking for birds supposed to get me to do anything more than marvel that a legend like Stewart had no problem looking stupid in a pallid movie, all in an attempt to throttle a laugh out of a script already choking on predictability and poor pacing? (John Saxon’s story line was particularly woefully underdeveloped and totally forgotten about for a good chunk of the movie and only explained away as things were wrapping up.)
Stewart and co-star Maureen O’Hara give the film a level of professional respectability it otherwise wouldn’t be worthy of, but in the end, this vacation is no more fun than the one you’d likely have to endure with your own family.
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