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National Lampoon's Class Reunion
In 10 Words or LessClue meets a slasher film, but without laughs or scares
Reviewer's Bias*Loves: Weird ‘80s comedies
Likes: Tommy Lee Jones
Dislikes: The National Lampoon brand legacy
Hates: The idea of a reunion
The FilmMost people, when thinking about National Lampoon films, will come up with one of two eras: the classics like Animal House and Vacation or the run of awful straight-to-video licensing deals in more recent years. But even in the classic years, most will only remember the big ones led by SNL stars John Belushi and Chevy Chase. They definitely won't recall the abysmal pastiche that is 1983's Movie Madness, but they are unlikely to know of Class Reunion, a forgettable bit of crude and pointless comedy from 1982 with a cast that's not capable of overcoming weak material.
The Class of 1972 of Lizzie Borden High School (the name of which is a clear hint to the tone of comedy in the film) is getting back together for their 10-year reunion, which, for some reason, is taking place in their old, now abandoned school, which has been opened for one night by rich, WASP alumnus Bob (Gerrit Graham, Used Cars and TerrorVision). Through a lengthy title sequence and the arrivals at the school, we get to meet the former students, including a pair of stoners, Satan-worshipping Dolores (Zane Buzby), celebrity Meredith (Shelley Smith), nerdy Gary (Michael Lerner), Hare Krishna Milt (Steve Tracy), blind and deaf Iris (Marya Small) and slovenly Hubert (Stephen Furst). Everyone is either a stereotype or one-note, and some, like Dolores and Iris, are simply over-the-top jokes waiting to be utilized. There's a reason why most of the names are unfamiliar (except for Furst and the oddly-cast Lerner), though it's a treat to see Marla Pennington (Small Wonder) in something different.
Once everyone is on hand, it becomes clear that one of their former classmates--who is humiliated in the film's flashback cold open--has come to get revenge, and is intent on killing those who wronged him in the past. Several of the core students, spurred on by a doctor from a local psychiatric hospital searching for his escaped patient, split up and explore the dilapidated school, hoping to prevent the planned carnage. It becomes a bit of a mystery, as they play hide-and-seek with the killer, with the action taking place in small chunks built around gags, be it an unsteady table-top walk by blind Iris (a legitimately well-done stunt) or three of the women breaking into Stop! in the Name of Love. Nothing earns much of a laugh, as the bits are either too telegraphed or just lame (like the presence of a vampire in the class, setting up a weak period joke.) The only thing that's actually interesting is the unhinged bad guy (played by Red Hot Chili Pepper Anthony Kiedis' father Blackie Dammett), mainly because he's such a complete lunatic (which, based on Kiedis' life story, makes a lot of sense.)
The script is credited to John Hughes, but watching the film it felt nothing like anything else he's written, lacking depth in the characters, cohesive structure and legitimate laughs. It only made sense then that Hughes claimed he was fired from the movie and the script rewritten without him. Obviously that could be a writer offering an excuse for one of his earliest scripts simply not being good, but it's hard to believe he could have gone from this mess to Vacation, Mr. Mom and Sixteen Candles in the two years that followed. That would be a turnaround of epic proportions. More likely, this was the result of producers who thought they knew better attempting to capitalize on the success of Animal House by taking Hughes' concept and throwing together something zany with some topless women and a performance by Chuck Berry. It didn't work.
The DiscKino Lorber brings National Lampoon's Class Reunion home on one Blu-ray disc, packed in a standard-width keepcase, with illustrated cover art from the film's poster. The disc features a static menu with options to watch the film, select scenes, check out the bonus features and adjust the set-up. There are no audio options, but subtitles are available in English.
The QualityFor a film few people remember, it's a bit of a surprise to see this film get a fresh master off a 4k scan of the original camera negative, but the results are impressive, as this 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer sports rich, well-saturated color and a high level of fine detail, sometimes to the detriment of a film with so-so production value (but a benefit to anyone focusing on the T&A.) When one character points out how his jacket matches his date's skirt, there's no missing that this is absolutely true. The ‘80s hairstyles also benefit from the enhanced delineation of this presentation, while the grain present is consistent and well-structured and black levels are sufficiently deep. The only really negative--outside of some very minor specks of damage--is a sequence where jitter is exceedingly obvious, making it feel like an earthquake is happening. THankfully it clears up after a short while.
Outside of a single concert scene (and an impromptu song), the sound in this film isn't particularly interesting, so not much more is needed than the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track provided, but even at that the mix could be more aggressive to ensure the dialogue is easily understood. Nothing is problematic in any serious way, but it all feels like it could have more oomph. Even so, the scene with Chuck Berry has enough power to make his music stand out. Score and sound effects are properly prioritized in the mix.
The ExtrasAn audio commentary is included from director Michael Miller and stunt coordinator Dean Raphael Ferrandini, with bonus-content veteran Douglas Hosdale serving as moderator. They cover the usual ground when it comes to commentaries, including the casting of the film, stories from the set and the style of comedy on the film, with Ferrandini able to add some insight about the stunt work (a perspective heard from less often on these tracks.) Miller has an interesting history as a director with Second City during the troupe's glory days, and shares that background, while also being candid about the material he had to work with and the location troubles he experienced. There's something about commentaries from people who have been out of the industry that are more interesting to listen to.
Garrit Graham sits down for a 12:56 interview, in which he talks about how his career got started, how he was cast in this film and his castmates. The featurette gets slightly sidetracked as Graham talks about the history of The National Lampoon and the art of improv, but he's got a lot of insight to share.
As is the norm for Kino discs, there are several trailers--though nothing for this movie-- including previews for Up the Creek, Moving Violations, Porky's II, Porky's Revenge and Miracle Beach.
The Bottom LineThe best parts of Class Reunion were probably cut before the cameras were even loaded, and the film that was left over is just another in a line of National Lampoon disappointments, without the charasmatic cast to overcome a weak, disjointed script. The presentation on the other hand is very impressive, thanks to a new 4K scan, which is supplemented by some solid, insightful bonus content. As a curiosity, this might be worth a look, but it's anything but a good film.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.