By Richard Winters
My Rating: 5 out of 10
4-Word Review: Calamity filled family vacation.
Roger Hobbs (James Stewart) is a slightly cantankerous man in his 50’s who is tired of family vacations as he finds them to be more stress than they are worth. He loves his family, but hates going on trips with them. He dictates a letter to his secretary that is to be opened by his wife (Maureen O’Hara) upon his death detailing his many grievances of one particular trip that they took to a beach-side house that ended up being one catastrophe after another and through flashbacks the viewer relives them along with him.
Stewart is a real blast and the best thing about the movie. He doesn’t have that wide-eyed country boy charm like in some of past roles, but instead is a world-weary cynical man whose constant flow of acerbic comments and observations are quite funny. O’Hara is beautiful and engaging as his wife and helps as a sort of anchor between him and the rest of the family although I thought she looked much too young to be playing a grandmother. 60’s teen-heartthrob singer Fabian can also be seen as Joe a young man who takes a liking to one of Hobbs’ daughters. I liked the beatnik beard that he grows, but the part where he breaks out into a duet with his date in a film that is otherwise not a musical is very weird.
The actual beach house is a crazy sight and looks creepier than the Psycho house and sits literally right on the sandy beach and looking vulnerable to getting flooded during high tide. Beachgoers sit and sunbathe all around it and I would have thought many of them might walk into the house, or peer through the windows, but that angle does not get played up. Some of the myriad mechanical issues that Hobbs has with the building are the film’s funniest moments especially his difficulty getting the water pump going. The film should’ve continued to focus on this story thread all the way till the end, but doesn’t, which is a weakness.
While the movie is cute and pleasing it is also contrived and unoriginal. Many of the scenarios that they have could have easily occurred had they stayed home and the whole vacation concept seems to get lost. The writing and humor are better suited for television and the plot is threadbare. In a lot of ways this could better be described as an ordinary family sitcom with several different episodes strung together.
The visit that they have with a boring couple (John McGiver, Marie Wilson) near the end doesn’t work at all and should’ve been cut as a two hour running time is too long for this type of film to begin with. The scene where Hobbs get stuck in the bathroom with the tipsy and nude visiting wife elicits a few chuckles, but the bird spotting trek that he takes with the husband becomes too much of a pointless tangent. The scene also has a glaring goof because the two men decide to wake up at 4:30 in the morning to start their trek but when they first get outside the sun is already high in the sky and looking like it is the middle of the afternoon.
My Rating: 5 out of 10
Released: June 15, 1962
Runtime: 1Hour 56Minutes
Director: Henry Koster
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video