Lackluster Video’s Humbug Holiday Viewing: Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure (2003)
Randy Quaid returns to the long-dead Vacation series, but this time in a TV movie so bad even Chevy Chase (The Karate Dog) refused to participate. The boorish two-dimensional Cousin Eddie Johnson takes center stage in a tale of bad luck, bad plumbing, and bad gags.
Eddie (Quaid) and his wife Catherine (once again played by Miriam Flynn) have yet again fallen on hard times. Having lost their “dirt farm” and their beloved RV, the Johnson family are now living with Clark Griswold’s daughter Audrey, who serves no purpose but to reassure viewers that they’re watching a legitimate continuation of the series, and not a bargain bin bastardization à la Home Alone 4. Dana Barron plays the role of Audrey, a role she originated in the first Vacation. But if this is a follow up to Christmas Vacation, then shouldn’t she be played by Juliette Lewis? Or, in keeping with the tradition of the series, a different actress entirely? Is a little consistency too much to ask for?
Eddie works as a test subject for the government’s “nuclear research” division. His job involves being injected with nuclear waste and performing intelligence tests against a chimpanzee.
And the chimp wins every time. ‘Cause monkeys are funny, right? And the dumb-dumbs who eat this kind of shit up can relate to Eddie’s stupidity, right? The cheap laughs in these scenes would’ve been easier to bear if they hadn’t dragged Fred Willard in to play the head scientist. It’s absolutely absurd to see a comic actor of this caliber slumming around in trash like this. It would be like if Sir Ben Kingsley starred in an Uwe Boll film.
Oh wait, that actually happened.
Eddie is fired for being stupider than the monkey. And then for some reason the monkey bites him. In the butt. There’s hardly any motivation behind the ape attack. It’s just an arbitrary contrivance to move the plot forward. And dumb-dumbs love them some butt jokes, amirite? Fearing a lawsuit, Fred Willard offers Eddie and his family an all-expenses paid vacation to the South Pacific. That’s the kind of flimsy set-up you’d expect from a latter day “Simpsons” episode.
And just like a latter day “Simpsons”, both the story and the jokes are painfully underdeveloped, unfunny, incoherent, and bordering on desperate. After a zany scene involving shark fishing and some of the most unconvincing green screen photography I’ve ever seen, the Johnson family is marooned on a desert island, where Gilligan-esque antics ensue. Eddie must prove himself a man by building a bamboo shelter, which collapses immediately after completion, and killing a vicious wild boar, which is obviously a gentle and disoriented farm pig. And then a plane arrives and rescues them, which pretty much renders all Eddie’s manly accomplishments pointless. There is an attempt in the third act to make Eddie look the hero by having him safely land the plane after the pilot is incapacitated. But this is a hollow victory since Eddie was the one who injured the pilot in the first place.
Christmas Vacation 2 has a surprisingly ambitious premise for a low budget telefilm. It reunites many past Vacation cast members – including Eric Idle, who reprises his role as the perpetually abused British tourist from European Vacation. And unlike the diabolical debacle of Home Alone 4, this movie actually looks like a movie. A cheap movie, yes, but one intended for theatrical release. It never feels like a claustrophobic studio-bound film. Many of the scenes on the desert island are actually shot outdoors, providing some sense of authenticity.
It’s the seemingly unending barrage of relentlessly unfunny gags that sabotage this production. Eddie spouts such bon mots as, “Haven’t walked this much since m’last trip to Wal-Mart” and “I hope they got a pooper on this thing ‘cause that fried eel’s headin’ due south!” Snots, Eddie’s frequently farting dog from Christmas Vacation, is back. While his flatulence problem was previously a minor gag, this time it’s the most overly used recurring joke in the whole movie.
Unless you count the whole “Eddie is borderline retarded” bit as a recurring joke.
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