Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 4, 2004)
Perversely, sometimes when I see a sequel to a movie I disliked, I prefer the former. For example, I thought that both Home Alone 2 and Problem Child 2 surpassed their predecessors. That’s partly because I really disliked the earlier flicks involved, and it shouldn’t be seen as an endorsement of the sequels; they worked better than the prior efforts but still weren’t very good.
Nonetheless, this demonstrates that just because one movie stinks, a subsequent effort doesn’t necessarily have to be terrible. And then there’s 2003’s made-for-TV effort National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure. It’s an odd beast, as it’s a sequel to a sequel but not very closely connected to its immediate inspiration, 1989’s Christmas Vacation. An unfunny exercise in holiday-related humor, it looks like a classic compared to the absolutely abysmal Island.
As one might infer from the title, Island largely focuses on the Uncle Eddie character. Always a secondary participant through the three Vacation flicks in which he appeared, Eddie (Randy Quaid) takes the forefront here, probably because even Chevy Chase had too much self-respect to lower himself to this level.
We find that chronically unemployed Eddie house-sits for Audrey Griswold (Dana Barron), the daughter of Chase’s Clark from the prior films. (Barron reprises her role from the original Vacation, which makes her the only Griswold child to play the same part twice.) Eddie brings along his doting wife Catherine (Miriam Flynn) and pubescent son Clark Griswold Johnson the Third (Jake Thomas). Everyone just calls the kid “Third”, and the abnormally intelligent boy stands out next to his sub-moronic father.
This becomes even clearer when Eddie loses his job as a medical test subject to a chimp because the simian’s brighter. He also worries that Third thinks he’s a moron, which is true; the boy treats his dad with thinly veiled contempt. When Eddie returns to the lab to plead for his job, the chimp bites him on the butt. To bribe Eddie and stave off a possible lawsuit, the firm offers him and his family an all-expenses-paid vacation to the South Seas, which he gleefully accepts.
Originally meant just to include the Johnsons, Audrey returns unexpectedly when she splits with her boyfriend Daniel. She’d been with him in Indianapolis, but she left when she discovered he was married. Heartbroken and almost suicidal, she goes on the trip to get her mind off of Daniel. Another romantic casualty, Eddie’s Uncle Nick (Ed Asner) also heads to the Pacific with them when his wife leaves him.
When the extended clan arrives on Muluka, sexy Muka Laka Miki (Sung Hi Lee) greets them. She acts as their guide around the island, where they also meet seapilot “Melbourne Jack” (Julian Stone). His rugged presence causes Audrey to fall in love again immediately.
Along with Muka Laka, the extended family takes a boat trip that ends poorly. After a fishing mishap, they run the ship aground and become stranded on a deserted island. The rest of the film follows their adventures there along with their attempts to make themselves a merry little Christmas despite the circumstances.
For a flick like Island, it probably makes more sense to address the good parts of the piece since I could devote hours to its shortcomings. Unfortunately, a review of the movie’s positive elements would be extremely short. Barron turned into a babe, and Lee’s pretty hot too.
Thus ends the pleasant aspects of Island. The original Christmas Vacation was pretty dopey, but Island can’t even manage to live up to its low standards. Much of the humor revolves around shots of Quaid either shirtless or in tiny outfits. A lot of the remaining gags concentrate on the disgusting bodily functions of the family dog Snots; he farts and urinates quite frequently.
That gives you an idea of where Island shoots. It aims for puerile humor and shows absolutely no signs of cleverness or inspiration. It goes off onto bizarre tangents unrelated to anything in attempts to get laughs. For example, we see a running gag in which the plumbing at Audrey’s house misbehaves. These scenes go on forever and make little sense.
Actually, pretty much nothing about Island seems sensible or believable. It’s a big cartoon of nonsense. It enjoys virtually no connection to the earlier Christmas Vacation and barely connects with the holiday in other ways. Essentially it works as a series of barely connected sight gags with no cohesion or real story behind them.
It doesn’t help that the characters are bland and unlikable. The worst offender comes from young Third, who’s the most annoying movie kid I’ve seen in a while. The boy is consistently smug and smarmy and shows few redeeming characteristics. His disdain for Eddie seems palpable and makes it tough for us to care when he inevitably changes his mind. Yeah, Eddie’s a moron, but he means the best - why’s this kid such a little prick about it?
Because the filmmakers weren’t skilled enough to create greater depth? Because then they can toss out a token moral at the end when Eddie proves himself to the boy? Even that sequence makes little sense, for Eddie impresses the kid pretty easily.
Ugh - I can’t talk about this movie any longer! Suffice it to say that Christmas Vacation 2 is the lowest of the low. Cheap, tacky and utterly free from any redeeming value, it’s one of the worst films I’ve ever seen.