During his very lengthy career, James Stewart managed to show his versatility in just about every possible genre of moviemaking from thrillers to romantic comedies, biographies, dramas, westerns, even mysteries and musicals. Henry Koster’s Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation finds Stewart as almost the whole show in this overlong slapstick family comedy with lots of famous faces from the older and younger generations of the time but with the burden of the comedy falling squarely on his shoulders. Fortunately, he’s able to keep this overcrowded but underfed little domestic comedy treading water for most of its length and even manages to generate some smiles and chuckles along the way.
Distributed By: Twilight Time
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono)
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 56 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 04/08/2014
Roger Hobbs (James Stewart) returns to work from a month-long beach vacation with his family dubbing it the worst catastrophe in the history of holidays. He then relates to his secretary the various pitfalls he had to navigate during his sojourn including dealing with a creepy beach house with antiquated plumbing, both married older daughters (Lili Gentle, Natalie Trundy) in tenuous relationships with their husbands (Josh Peine who’s out of work, John Saxon who’s being seduced by beach bunny Valerie Varda), fourteen-year old Katey (Lauri Peters) who’s so ashamed of her braces that she’s becoming a wallflower, and young son Danny (Michael Burns) who’s glued to the television. Every solution Roger finds seems to generate another problem, and it’s all he can do to hope to survive the month and get back to the security of his home and job.
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
Based on the novel Hobbs’ Vacation by Edward Streeter, the screenplay by Nunnally Johnson mixes running gags (the recalcitrant hot water pump and unpredictable kitchen water fixtures, Hobbs reduced to a bellboy always left carrying everyone’s oversized luggage, a bratty grandson who hates grandpa) with some extended comic sequences which on their own are the strongest in the film. Director Henry Koster manages to make a funny and thrilling sailing sequence for Hobbs and his son using rear projection almost exclusively, and a later bird watching hike by Hobbs and his son-in-law’s prospective employer Mr. Turner (John McGiver) is the film’s single best comic sequence. There’s some “risqué“ (for the era, very tame now) bathroom farce with Mrs. Turner (Marie Wilson) and that unpredictable plumbing (reasonably amusing), and some foolishness about pretending to read War and Peace and Moby Dick which never milks the humor out of the set-up situations. In fact, there are a lot of missed opportunities here to mine humor from that Addams Family-style beach house to a cook (Minerva Urecal) who keeps coming and going, and a lengthy party scene where Hobbs pays young men to dance with shy daughter Katey (Fabian’s average Joe finally gets his money’s worth) runs on too long for too little payoff. A later scene with Katey and Joe works in a nothing tune for them to sing “Cream Puff” (unbelievably written by the Oscar-winning combo of Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer) just because Fabian had a crooning career and Lauri Peters was fresh off her role as the original Liesel in the stage version of The Sound of Music. Overall, the film is just too long and too underwritten to sustain any comic through-line, and most of the subplots die a-borning.
James Stewart truly is the whole show in the film being given almost all of the funniest bits and (despite his vow to butt out of his children’s lives) underplaying the poignancy of his straightening out his children’s messes in the style Stewart patented as his own. As his wife, Maureen O’Hara is completely wasted being given nothing of any great consequence to do (she had been used far more intelligently a year earlier in a better domestic comedy The Parent Trap), and Reginald Gardiner as a big shot in the local yacht club is even less well used. Lauri Peters is one of the least convincing fourteen year olds in the movies (she was nineteen at the time) and doesn’t make much of an impression in her “introduction” to film. John McGiver and Marie Wilson are reliably amusing as the hypocritical couple who pretend abstinence but are secret drunks, and Michael Burns gets an effective moment or two as the young Hobbs son who finally connects with his father.
The Cinemascope aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is faithfully presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Apart from the soft, scratchy stock footage which begins the film, the image quality is very impressive with excellent sharpness throughout and strong color depth with accurate and appealing flesh tones. Contrast is consistently applied to get the best out of the high definition transfer even with a few dust specks which occasionally intrude. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix is typical of its era with somewhat limited fidelity and a tiny bit of attenuated pops and crackle in a scene or two. Dialogue is always understandable and meshes well with the sound effects and Henry Mancini’s delightful music.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Isolated Score Track: Henry Mancini’s score is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo and sounds marvelous.
Special Features Rating: 2.5/5
Fox Movietone News Clip (1:13, SD): members of the Gophers visit the set of Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation prior to playing in the Rose Bowl.
Theatrical Trailer (2:58, SD)
Six-Page Booklet: contains a series of stills, poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s entertaining essay on the movie.
Fans of James Stewart will enjoy his tour de force performance as the put-upon Mr. Hobbs in Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation, and this Blu-ray release by Twilight Time presents the film in its best possible condition. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested should go to www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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