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National Lampoon's Senior Trip

New Line // R // June 1, 2004
List Price: $19.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted May 26, 2004 | E-mail the Author
I'm about to scribble down a fairly negative review of National Lampoon's Senior Trip. That in and of itself isn't particularly unusual, seeing as how it's one of the worst reviewed comedies this side of My Baby's Daddy, but the odd part is that I've seen it twice before and kinda dug it. Maybe my comedic sensibilities have taken a complete U-turn at some point in the past four years or, more likely, maybe Senior Trip loses a little something when I'm not watching a movie on basic cable at 2 AM. Dags and Reggie, our leading man and his Pauly Shore Mark-II pothead pal, throw a senior class party at the stately manor of Principal Todd Moss (Matt Frewer). That lands them and a bunch of their buddies in detention, where they're assigned to write a letter to the President on the state of education. One student actually bothers to finish the letter, resulting in an invitation to meet the Commander in Chief and deliver their thoughts to the nation. A senator with his eyes on the presidency figures out how scuzzy these kids actually are, encouraging their visit so that they'll publicly embarrass President Davis and inadvertently push through his own education plan. They pile into a bus helmed by a "High Times" cover boy (Tommy Chong), and...well, normally this is where I'd say "wackiness ensues", but it really doesn't.

Senior Trip is overflowing the sort of comedy I'd expect to come from a boardroom teeming with ponytailed middle-aged men who think they're in touch with what the kids are into these days. All the standard issue characters are present and accounted for -- the uptight principal, the smarmy Ivy-league-bound suck-up, the A/V dweeb, the stoner, the misunderstood weird girl, the cleavagy slutbomb, the fat slob, the straightlaced virgin who has a coyly-bites-her-bottom-lip-thirst for a little excitement, and the lead mischief maker who we know is our hero because he gets the most screen time. Not that anyone goes into a movie with "National Lampoon's..." in the title expecting sterling character development, but no one's given much of anything to do beyond those three-word descriptions. The politically-charged Herbert and lesbian Meg could've been cut out entirely without anyone noticing, even though it's always welcome to see Nicole de Boer in a movie no matter how bad it may be. The only moderately interesting subplot across the main characters is Miosky's quest for a straighthaired blonde Asian woman, which is painstakingly telegraphed in the first reel along with all the other relationships that inevitably spring up. The bland jokes revolve around dicks, farts, and booze, recycled from a couple decades worth of the low-budget teen comedies that had littered Cinemax a decade earlier. Some gags aren't so stale -- penile piano playing and faithfully typing the dying words of a teacher, f'r instance -- but moments like that are few and far between, and even then they rarely manage to get a laugh. Drugs and liquor aren't used to setup jokes -- they are the jokes, or at least what passes for 'em, even trotting out the tried-'n-true fish-outta-water party crashing scene. I'm sure there is an audience somewhere that thinks raising a middle finger is the ultimate rebellious act and that "see ya, wouldn't wanna be ya!" is a witty retort, and if you're part of that group...hey, mark June 1st on your calendar 'cause you're in for a treat. If Senior Trip has one redeeming value, it's former Kid in the Hall Kevin McDonald. The only character to break away from one of the stock clichés, McDonald plays a deranged Star Trek fan who chats it up with cardboard cutouts in a makeshift Enterprise, taking off with an inflatable Uhura to stalk who he believes to be the leader of the Klingons. He seemed more important in the version I'm used to seeing on cable. In the theatrical cut, he's mostly extraneous and doesn't have any real impact aside from delivering some of the only laughs in the movie. As tepid as most of the comedy is, at least it's paced well, propelled by enough energy that it's not dull to watch. Even though Senior Trip isn't funny, at least it isn't boring.

Video: I can complain at length about what I'm seeing on screen, but not how I'm seeing it. Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, Senior Trip looks great. There are no print flaws or speckling of note, and the only authoring concerns I spotted were some small edge haloes in the background of a couple of shots. It's crisp and detailed, boasting some bright, vivid colors when the students step outside the sterile confines of Fairmount High School and their predominately gray bus. A tiny amount of grain is present, though it's not intrusive and really shouldn't be considered a flaw anyway. So, yeah. Nicely done.

Audio: This DVD includes a pair of newly-minted six-channel soundtracks: a 448KBps Dolby Digital 5.1 track and another in DTS. I'm going to guess that Senior Trip wasn't mixed for 5.1 originally, but its multichannel spin is quite a bit more active than the vast majority of recent comedies. The surround channels are buzzing with activity for nearly every second of its hour and a half runtime, from clacking keys to whizzing cars. Sometimes the surround use is a little gimmicky, particularly when Principal Moss flails around in a flooded bathroom, but it's handled surprisingly well for the most part. The subwoofer's also beefy when given the opportunity, not just for the crunchy what-passed-for-alternative-rock-in-the-mid-'90s soundtrack, but for effects like explosions and crashing cars. Flipping through the various audio options, the difference between the DTS and Dolby Digital tracks seemed fairly negligible. Both are quite a bit louder than the 2.0 surround track, which is muddier and not nearly as expansive. Dialogue was discernable throughout, but the way it's punched up in the six-channel mixes left it seeming a little strained, although it didn't sound much better in the old stereo surround track either. I spent most of the movie listening to the DTS track, and it gets a thumbs-up from me.

Subtitles in English and Spanish as well as closed captions are also provided.

Supplements: The only real extra is a fairly awful anamorphic widescreen theatrical trailer. Noticeably absent is the additional footage from Senior Trip's TV appearances. Oh well. New Line also tacked on six minutes worth of trailers for Heart Condition, Head Above Water, and Faithful. The DVD sports a set of 16x9-enhanced animated menus with a slideshow theme, and the movie has been broken up into twenty chapter stops.

Conclusion: National Lampoon's Senior Trip is way too mediocre to buy, and it's even kind of tough to recommend forking over a couple of bucks as a rental unless you're looking to make some screen grabs for your Danny Smith fan-site or something. As good as this DVD looks and sounds, you'd probably be better off waiting for it to wind up back in USA's late night rotation or maybe fishing it out of a bargain bin a few months down the road.
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