Sinking low used to be a badge of honor for National Lampoon, the magazine and the movies. The aggressive crudity of Lampoon-brand humor always walked hand in hand with the intellectual precocity of its original staff, almost entirely comprised of anarchic Ivy Leaguers. The only thing they seemed to take seriously was the premise that nothing was But the latest movie offering bearing the Lampoon name, the too-aptly titled National Lampoon’s Last Resort, hits bottom in a way the magazine’s founders surely never contemplated: Not only is this mutation mind-bogglingly inept and bland, it’s also inexcusably unfunny.
The magazine’s first stab at the screen was its most notorious, and most successful. National Lampoon’s Animal House, critically lambasted on release, went on to make a fortune and created a new movie star in John Belushi, who played Bluto Blutarsky, frat house id on the rampage. As obvious, grotesque, and sexist as much of its humor was, Animal House was stupidly funny. The movie also had a lot to answer for: the rebirth of the party-mindlessly attitude that lives on almost two decades later (ever see MTV’s Spring Break?). But rent it again and see if you don’t laugh.
Animal House‘s runaway success should have set the stage for a movie machine as lucrative as those built by Airplane! creators Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker — or at the very least the Police Academy series. But Lampoon’s subsequent efforts, the anthology National Lampoon Goes to the Movies and the seemingly natural Class Reunion — which revived none of the Animal House characters and eventually devolved into a lame parody of Halloween-type slasher films — barely made it into theaters. Then Lampoon struck gold again with its Vacation series, concocted by former magazine staffer John Hughes. The first, National Lampoon’s Vacation, is almost as nasty as Animal House. One of its most memorable gags involves tying a dead aunt to the roof of a station wagon, and its evocation of the typical suburban family (clueless nebbish Chevy Chase, sensible but near-shrewish wife Beverly D’Angelo, and unspeakable brats Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Hill) is extremely sour. But it delivers the laughs. Its sequel, European Vacation is gentler than the original, and the series’ final installment, Christmas Vacation, is almost entirely toothless.
Truth to tell, the success of the Vacation films owed little to their bearing the publication’s name. Nonetheless, last year saw the release of National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1, an intermittently amusing parody in the Airplane! vein, which took on the likes of Lethal Weapon, The Silence of the Lambs, and Basic Instinct. And now we get the inexplicable Last Resort. Starring the infamous two Coreys — obnoxious teen actors and rehab vets Haim and Feldman — and made for what appears to have been about 20 bucks, Last Resort can only be compared to one of the lower circles of Dante’s Hell. So incoherent as to be almost hallucinatory, it follows the efforts of a couple of ne’er-do-well Xers in their attempt to save a former pirate-movie star’s vacation isle from bankruptcy. Jokes: Haim flies into the chest of an unnaturally endowed bimbette and winds up covered in foam, quipping, ”I’ve landed in silicone valley.” And there’s more-much more. Much too much more.
Last Resort: F
Animal House: B-
Goes to the Movies: D
Class Reunion: D
European Vacation: C-
Christmas Vacation: C-
Loaded Weapon: C