MostlyFilm writers pick their favourite holiday films
Boat Trip – Mrs Mills
In 1997 Cuba Gooding Junior won an Oscar for his role in Jerry Maguire. Five years later he starred in Boat Trip, as Jerry, a man with a comedically inept best friend and a love life that has hit the rocks. The romantically desperate duo decide to take a holiday, a cruise, a nice boat trip where they can meet women. Only the cruise turns out to be a gay cruise and herein lieth the comedy. Yes that’s right, two straight men on a gay cruise is the comedy set up, sounds bad doesn’t it, and it is and yet….
Can a film with a breakfast buffet featuring a giant ice sculpture of a penis following the line – “It’s breakfast, how gay can a breakfast buffet be?” – be all bad?
Can a film featuring Roger Moore as an elderly, lecherous, Bond-like gay lothario with an eye for Mr Gooding junior be all bad? Saying lines like “Would you like a bite of my sausage?”<Bites sausage saucily> “In England we call them bangers.” – not have moments of comedy gold?
High art it is not. A good film it is not. But I laughed, I laughed a lot, a lot more than the film deserves truth be told, and here I am recommending it. Not to everyone perhaps, but to anyone who is intrigued by the above, or who finds Rob Schneider and Adam Sandler movies a guilty pleasure – to you, to you I recommend it. Meanwhile Cuba looks on at his Oscar and wonders where it all went wrong.
Dirty Dancing – Laura Morgan
There are some good films about holiday romances (Grease) and some bad films about holiday romances (Shirley Valentine), but queen of them all is Dirty Dancing, in which a pre-nose job Jennifer Grey gives hope to teenage klutzes everywhere by effortlessly seducing Patrick Swayze’s sex-drenched Johnny Castle with the help of a lake, $250 and some killer heels.
The plot is stuffed with dazzling improbabilities and the music and dance moves are anachronistic, but that’s the point – Dirty Dancing is pure, glorious fantasy. Awkward, dweebish Baby falls into a pressure-cooker of soft-porn glamour, intrigue and scandal, but instead of getting burned she saves a life, saves the day, becomes a pro-standard dancer in under a week and gets to learn that, with the exception of George Wickham-ish cad Robbie, the seedy underside of holiday camp life is in fact populated with Jolly Good Sorts; a conclusion with which her previously disapproving parents finally agree after seeing Johnny dry-hump Baby on the dancefloor, and after all why not? They’re on holiday.
A holiday romance, like cherry blossom or a beautiful sunset, comes with built-in obsolescence. At the end of Dirty Dancing there is no mention of the future; no suggestion that Johnny and Baby will see each other again after their last perfect dance: the moment is enough. Add in the finest comic singing performance since Virginia Weidler in The Philadelphia Story and the enchanting fact that it’s the male lead rather than the female who spends much of the film half-naked, and there’s no reason in the world not to love it.
Withnail & I – MrMoth
“We’ve gone on holiday by mistake!” is the pivotal line, and one I feel able to relate to thanks to a childhood spent turning up with a frame tent (or, later, a touring caravan) at series of unprepossessing campsites/farmhouses/places where bodies turn up. The despair of the British holiday – before it became a “staycation”, before “glamping”, generally just before going on holiday in this country was something you could talk about without sounding like a bellend – encapsulated in a single despairing statement, howled over the driving rain to a largely uninterested farmer.
Withnail & I might not be the most obvious ‘holiday’ film; it apparently lacks exotic locales, alluring natives and absurd fish-out-of-water subplots (though all of these things turn up in subversive forms), but there’s no doubt that the plot is driven by the need that drives us all to go on holiday – the need to escape. It’s just that the escape is made to somewhere perfectly, beautifully awful.
Still, there’s no joy of a holiday like the joy of returning home, and how wonderfully cosy and welcoming Withnail and I’s* flat seems at the end of the film; despite the impromptu home invasion they return to, there is a warmth and peace to the manky old flat that is familiar to anyone back from a break. This same familiarity irritates itchy feet, though, and, by the end, Paul McGann’s I has escaped to better things, leaving Richard E Grant’s Withnail glumly defiant in the driving rain. At the classic tourist destination, London Zoo. Ahh, holidays.
*I’m not the kind of wanker who goes round calling him Marwood.
On The Town – Viv Wilby
All holidays are temporary: the pleasure of being away is tempered by the pain of knowing that it’s not going to last. On The Town is perhaps the movie that expresses this fleeting sweetness the best.
Three sailors – a geek, a goof, and a hopeless romantic – have just 24 precious hours of shore leave in New York, New York. The ship’s horn sounds at 6am and so begins a frantic day of sight-seeing and girl-chasing. Gotta see the whole town right from Yonkers on down to the bay. In just one day. Gotta pick up a date, maybe seven or eight, on your way. In just one day.
While the plot turns on romantic Gaby’s (Gene Kelly) quest for a date with an elusive municipal pin-up girl (Vera-Ellen), the movie is a paean to New York. The location filming (a first for a musical, and something co-director Kelly apparently insisted on) serves as a kind of moving postcard of the Big Apple itself.
Everything is performed with a great deal of pep and the film is shot through with a confident, post-war optimism. Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin and Kelly as the three naval tourists have a believable, buddyish chemistry. As well as the opening New York, New York montage, highlights include Ann Miller’s (playing a sexy anthropologist) Prehistoric Man number and the fine comic support provided by Alice Pearce as a plain-Jane roomie who shares a tender moment with Kelly.
But there are no Hollywood endings. The dawn comes again and the sailors are summoned back to their ship, leaving their girls waving forlornly on the dock, as three different sailors take their place. This is what holidays are really like.
National Lampoon’s Vacation – MarvMarsh
As a sixteen year old I held four films above all others: Blazing Saddles, Stir Crazy, Trading Places and National Lampoon’s Vacation. In fact, due to being an idiot, I once loudly declared Chevy Chase to be the funniest actor in the world based solely on his performance as Clark W. Griswold in Vacation and although I immediately realised that I was terribly mistaken and desperately withdrew my claim even as the ridicule started flying my way I still have plenty of love for Chevy in this. Not Fletch though. Fucking hell.
Subtitled, or it should be, Clark Griswold’s Mid-Life Crisis, Vacation is about a father’s ill-advised attempt to bond with his family by making them travel across America to visit a theme park while having lots of organised fun along the way. How could it go wrong? Well, in a million different ways of course, none of which I will spoil in the unlikely event you haven’t seen it. I will say though that if after a 2,500 mile drive at the end of which you are finally completely mentally destroyed you get to punch an over-cheery plastic moose right in his big fat nose then the whole thing was probably worthwhile.
I haven’t seen this film since I became an adult but I still remember lots of it fondly. The family truckster, Clark’s aimless ramble through the desert during which he discards his clothes, including his watch, John Candy’s appearance as an officious park security guard. And if you thought that Chevy Chase being the star made it none more eighties, then consider that his son Rusty is played by Anthony Michael Hall and, even better, the sexy fantasy woman in a Ferrari who tries to lure Clark away from his family is played by, prepare for this, Christie Brinkley. There. That is none more eighties.