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National Lampoon Movie Madness aka National Lampoon Goes to the Movies
Directed by Bob Giraldi and Henry Jaglom, 1982's National Lampoon's Movie Madness (or National Lampoon Goes To The Movies if you go by the title card) fails to even come close to the moments of brilliance that the magazine behind the movie hit during its heyday. Made before the Vacation films proved to be box office hits (well, maybe not so much Vegas Vacation, the film is an anthology of sorts, divided into three segments (the fourth segment, said to have been cut before release, has sadly not been reinstated for this Blu-ray release). Giraldi directed the Growing Yourself and Success Wanters segments while Jaglom directed Municipalians.
Growing Yourself is up first. The story follows Jason Cooper (Peter Riegert), a lawyer who coerces his wife Susan (Candy Cooper) to leave so that he'll be able to raise their kids in her absence and 'grow himself.' He winds up quitting his job to, puzzlingly, open up an orphanage for plants. Jason would seem to be in good company, as everyone he encounters seems to want to 'grow themselves' as well, no matter how misguided their attempts at self-improvement turn out to be. Jason, however, soon realizes that being a single dad isn't as easy as he first thought it would be. Not only does he keep losing his kids, but he's having trouble with his beautiful mistress Lisa (Diane Lane), while his wife, no free from family responsibility, takes the business world by storm.
This first story is an unfunny mess. What exactly it's attempting to ‘lampoon' here is never made clear. There's the self-help angle but the story also goes after family drama, raising kids, the joys of parenthood, the business world and lots more, to the point where it's extremely unfocused and not nearly as clever as the writers probably hoped it would be. This was tough to sit through.
The second story, Success Wanters, follows Dominique Corsair (Ann Dusenberry), a stripper who is raped with a stick of butter by a group of executives that run a dairy company. After she's been assaulted, in a matter of days she manages to climb the corporate ladder and insert herself as the new CEO of a margarine company and run the other dairy companies out of business for good. Not only that, but she then marries rich, finds a cure for cancer and then becomes... America's first lady.
This one isn't funny either. Even if you can look past the ‘funny rape' scene (1982 seems like a different planet in terms of how this type of things is handled in comedy compared to modern times), it's just a whole lot of nonsense. To be fair, we do get a cameo from the great Joe Spinell and he exudes the same weird, greasy charm that served him well on plenty of other cult films over the years before his untimely death, but it isn't enough to really save this. Robert Culp shows up in this one too, as do Fred Willard and Olympia Dukakis, Mary Woronov and the mighty Dick Miller. It's a shame with a cast like that that it doesn't wind up amounting to anything. On top of that, as attractive as Dusenberry is, her performance is surprisingly wooden. Granted, it is the most outrageous of the three stories but like the first chapter, it doesn't really wind up going anywhere or parodying anything all that specific.
Last and basically least is Municipalians, which parodies the buddy cop movie, something that had already been parodied quite a few times even at this point in history. Samuel Starman (Christopher Lloyd) is a serial killer running about town murdering people, as serial killers are wont to do. Thankfully for cops Brent Falcone (Robbie Benson) and Stan Nagurski (Richard Widmark), he leaves his driver's license at the scene of the crime. As such, they track him down, but of course, run into obstacle after obstacle along the way.
If the two earlier segments had moments that were weird enough to at least make you take notice, Municipalians can't even be bothered to do that. The whole thing falls flat, it isn't funny or clever or even marginally interesting. It completely wastes the talented Christopher Lloyd in a role that he could have been great in, and this winds up being one of the longest half hour's that you'll ever spend in front of the TV screen.
National Lampoon's Movie Madness arrives on Blu-ray for the first time in the universe via Code Red Releasing who offer up the film on a 25GB disc framed at 1.78.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition taking up 21.8GBs of space. Picture quality is really good here. There's very little damage at all but the transfer retains a natural amount of film grain, as it should. Detail isn't reference quality but it's very strong and there's good depth and texture to compliment the strong back levels and nice color reproduction.
The 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 track, in the film's native English, sounds just fine. There are no noticeable issues with any hiss or distortion and while range is understandably limited by the original recording, dialogue is clean, clear and audible throughout. There are no alternate language options although subtitles are provided in English only.
There isn't much here in the way of extras. Aside from menus and chapter selection the disc includes trailers for the feature and for a few other Code Red Blu-ray releases and… that's it..
To say that National Lampoon's Movie Madness is uneven would be an understatement, the film is a mess! That said, it's got a certain amount of cult movie appeal thanks to some interesting casting and a few memorably odd scenes. Code Red's Blu-ray is light on extras, understandably, but it does look and sound very good. A solid upgrade for those who know they like the movie, a rental for the curious.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.