There was a time when the “National Lampoon” name on a movie meant something, back in the days of “Animal House” and “Vacation.” Now it means something else. In the case of “National Lampoon’s Senior Trip,” it means a witless item that is hurried through its theatrical window on its way to cable and homevid. New Line didn’t bother to press-screen the pic, presumably figuring it would be dead once word got out.
Story involves a bunch of seniors at an Ohio high school (actually shot in Canada), whose detention assignment is to write a letter to the president of the United States about why the education system has failed. The president is impressed and invites the kids to Washington.
There, a manipulative senator (Lawrence Dane) sees their arrival as an opportunity to use the moronic teens to embarrass his political rival.
This is an excuse for an unending string of jokes involving bodily functions including sex, flatulence, urination and regurgitation. If this is what teenagers are demanding to see, we’re in more trouble than the film acknowledges.
To his credit, Matt Frewer, as the principal, manages to flesh out his character to two dimensions; most of the rest of the cast are simply playing one-joke stick figures. Tommy Chong is the burnt-out bus driver known as “Red” because of his fondness for horse tranquilizers, while Valerie Mahaffey is the mousy teacher who really is a tigress. Kevin McDonald does add some life as a crazed crossing guard obsessed with “Star Trek” who, for unknown reasons, follows the students to Washington.
Otherwise, humor is subpar, as is the plotting, which imagines a senator being able to order every school in the country to use one food service and that the president would sit on a Senate committee panel. New Line’s best hope for a return here is that audiences will be attracted to its fall lineup, advertised by the string of trailers tacked on to the front of the film.