Fan-favorite everyman Jimmy Stewart appeared in no shortage of classic productions including Rear Window, Vertigo, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and It's A Wonderful Life, just to name a few. In comparison, his misfires are few and far between...but if you want the very definition of "middle-of-the-road", look no further than Henry Koster's Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation (1962). Stewart stars as Roger Hobbs, husband of Peggy (Maureen O'Hara) and father of four. He's even got a few grandchildren, but his identity as anything other than "husband" and "father" is fading fast.
This is never more evident than during their month-long vacation at a run-down beach house: with his wife and two teenagers Katey (Lauri Peters) and Danny (Michael Burns) in tow and the rest en route, Roger reluctantly embarks on a vacation he had no hand in planning. The house is a disaster, offering little more than bad plumbing and a rotting staircase. Of course, he's not the only one with problems: Katey, ashamed of her new braces, stays inside and Danny only wants to watch westerns on TV. Before long, their older daughters Susan (Natalie Trundy) and Janie (Lili Gentle) arrive with husband problems and at least one ungrateful grandchild. Needless to say, it's going to be a long month.
Not surprisingly for a comedy that approaches the two-hour mark, Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation overstays its welcome. Obvious culprits include the film's unnecessary "dictation" bookends (which also lead to equally unnecessary bits of narration throughout the film), the drawn out and episodic nature of Roger's third act "problem solving", and a gaggle of supporting characters that could've easily been cut in half. The latter proves especially frustrating, from the chemistry-free encounters with flirtatious neighbor Marika (Valerie Varda) to a later subplot involving yacht owner Reggie McHugh (Reginald Gardiner). Both characters are put in place to create a bit of adulterous tension for Roger and Peggy; in both cases, they're blatantly undercooked and feel more like wandering diversions than worthwhile, well-placed scenarios.
Still, wedged between these sporadic missteps is an entertaining family comedy; at times, it even displays a dramatic backbone that balances nicely with the film's ventures into sitcom slapstick. Roger and Peggy obviously have separate ideas for an "ideal family vacation" but largely put their feelings aside for the kids' sake. The broad range of age differences also plays out nicely on several occasions, none moreso than a family toast that spirals out of control as short-term pleasantries give way to changing priorities. And despite its slightly drawn out nature, the bonding scene between Roger and his only son, Danny---which, incidentally, takes place while they're lost at sea---is perhaps the film's most fully-realized attempt to temporarily close the generational gap. Every one of Roger's "solutions" seems to involve a healthy dose of luck (or even bribery), but this father-and-son outing leaves much less of a bitter aftertaste.
Originally issued on DVD by Fox nearly a decade ago, Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation first made the transition to Blu-ray as a German import back in 2011. The film's domestic high definition debut arrives courtesy of Twilight Time, which all but ensures a relatively pleasing disc that'll set you back more than $30. While the relatively lack of substantial bonus features certainly isn't surprising, anyone just hoping for a solid A/V presentation should get their money's worth.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer is a solid effort in virtually all respects. This marks the film's domestic Blu-ray debut and the results are very pleasing, from the high level of image detail to a steady amount of natural film grain. Black levels are also quite good from start to finish, while textures frequently jump out...even in the busier, lower-lit indoor sequences. Glaring digital imperfections are thankfully absent on this dual-layered disc, which undoubtedly represents the strongest home video presentation of the film to date. Though Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation is hardly a visually ambitious production, the strength of this film-like presentation enhances the experience somewhat.
DISCLAIMER: The screen captures featured in this review are strictly decorative and do not represent Blu-ray's native 1080p image resolution.
The default original audio track is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio Mono and, for the most part, sounds quite good. Dialogue and background music are well balanced and there's even some depth on occasion...but for the most part, this mix is limited by the source material and rarely moves beyond "adequate". On the other hand, there are no glaring audio issues (hissing, pops, crackles or dropout), so I doubt anyone will walk away disappointed. Henry Mancini's score can't help but lack a certain amount of fullness and dynamic range, although a separate Isolated Score and Effects Track boosts it to a more robust stereo presentation. Optional English subtitles are included during the main feature only.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
As expected, the menu interface is plain but perfectly functional and loads very quickly. This one-disc release is housed in a standard keepcase, adorned with vintage poster artwork and a nice little Booklet
that includes production stills, vintage promotional images and liner notes by Twilight Time regular Julie Kirgo. Simple, effective and appropriate.
Not much, but we get a few scraps. Aside from a vintage Movietone News Clip
(90 seconds) which includes a few glimpses of the film set, the remaining extras are all Twilight Time regulars: an Isolated Score Track
(presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0), the film's Theatrical Trailer
and a listing of the Twilight Time Catalog
(which crashed my player more than once, oddly enough). Unlike the main feature, no optional subtitles are included during these supplements.
It's not a bad choice for a lazy weekend matinee (and there's no doubt that Jimmy Stewart fans will enjoy themselves), but Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation falls several steps short of the leading man's best efforts. Either way, there's an interesting mix of comedy, drama, and period-specific references that unquestionably give this film a distinct, accessible atmosphere for the right audience. Twilight Time's Blu-ray package offers a modest amount of support, including a solid A/V presentation and a few familiar extras. As always, the limited quantity and $30 sticker price will entice and annoy interested parties in equal measure, but there's just enough here to satisfy die-hard fans. Mildly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.