The Comeback Trail

Movies about the film business have been around almost since the medium started. ‘Sunset Boulevard’, and ‘The Player’ amongst others have skewered Tinsletown with glee. The titanic egos and outrageous fortune of the business have fascinated and repelled audiences. ‘The Comeback Trail’ continues this wicked exploration. Although a work of fiction, its grain of truth makes you wonder if Hollywood would really sink as low as ‘The Comeback Trail’s’ shonky characters.

It’s 1974 and wayward film producer Max Barber (Robert DeNiro) owes money to dangerous gangster Reggie (Morgan Freeman). Wanting to keep his partner and nephew Walter (Zack Braff) happy, he hatches a scheme where his latest film’s leading man dies, whereby he can collect the insurance money. He casts washed up movie star Duke Montana (Tommy Lee Jones). Placing him in ever more dangerous situations, Max’s plan doesn’t exactly work with Duke’s survival instincts causing more headaches for Max’s already shaky demeanour.

‘The Comeback Trail’ is an amiable comedy making fair use of its talents. A remake of a little seen 1982 film, it has sly digs at Hollywood machinations without being too ferocious. Perhaps that could have made it more memorable, although the cartoon-like stunt-work and consistently amusing humour enables fun viewing.

Director George Gallo doesn’t have to try too hard in obtaining good performances. DeNiro, Jones and Freeman are pros in ‘The Comeback Trails’ broad comedy style, teasing out the script’s occasional darkness with ease. They’ve suffered the slings and arrows of Hollywood’s craziness several times, effectively bringing their professional experiences to the fore despite the story’s increasingly silly incidents.

‘The Comeback Trail’ isn’t the greatest comedy made but it provides an entertaining diversion. Whilst it could have been much tougher in targeting cinematic greed, there are other films which have done this multiple times. If you want to see a group of famous actors have fun with thin material then this is for you although one hopes the story they work with never comes to reality.

Rating out 10: 6



In 1983, ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation’ burst into cinemas. The tale of the Griswold family desperately trying to enjoy a fun, family holiday only to be disastrous, resonated with audiences. It gave star Chevy Chase’s career a huge boost with his comedies becoming 1980’s mainstays. Three theatrical sequels followed with ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ still an annual TV tradition. ‘Vacation’ is the fifth in the series, updating what’s been happening in the Griswold’s crazy but always funny world.

Wanting to bond with his family and relive childhood memories, Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) decides to take everyone on a road trip. Their destination is Walley World, a massive amusement park. Taking his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) and two sons, their idyllic vacation swiftly goes awry. Meeting people including his sister Audrey (Leslie Mann) and her very weird husband Stone (Chris Hemsworth) add unexpected calamity to their holiday with Walley World increasingly looking out of reach.

Johnathan Goldstein directs ‘Vacation’ with an appropriately light touch. It certainly isn’t a gentle comedy as it cheerfully wears its political incorrectness on its sleeve. Fans of the series will find many familiar elements, adding a nostalgic layer. Newcomers should still enjoy it, even if it’s hardly sophisticated humour. It’s crude and some jokes don’t totally work but ‘Vacation’ supplies consistent laughs when needed.

‘Vacation’ relies on its talented cast to convey its silly humour. They do it well with Helms’ nerdy father a good foil to Applegate’s ‘do anything’ mother. The cast have a great time partaking in some of the outlandish situations their characters find themselves in. It’s also pleasing seeing Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo return to their original roles, still showing the comic timing which made them so popular.

As part of the series ‘Vacation’ slots in neatly with its predecessors. It has enough of its own atmosphere to stand apart from the sequels but connects effortlessly. The Griswold family are still the least welcome family you’d want to go on a holiday with but watching them from the lounge room is always a safer and funnier option.

Rating out of 10: 6