Review: ‘National Lampoon’s Senior Trip’

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.

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.

National Lampoon's Senior Trip

Production

A New Line Cinema release of an Alliance production. Produced by Wendy Grean. Executive producers, Peter Morgan, Michel Roy, Neil Stearns. Co-executive producer, Stephane Reichel. Directed by Kelly Makin. Screenplay, Roger Kumble, I. Marlene King.

Crew

Camera (color), Francois Protat; editor, Stephen Lawrence; music, Steve Bartek; production design, Gregory Keen; art direction, John Dondertman; costume design, Sharon Purdy; sound (Dolby), Tom Hidderley; casting, Ross Clydesdale. Reviewed at Cleveland Circle Cinemas, Boston, Sept. 8, 1995. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 91 min.

With

Principal Todd Moss - Matt Frewer Miss Tracy Milford - Valerie Mahaffey Sen. John Lerman - Lawrence Dane Red - Tommy Chong Dags - Jeremy Renner Reggie- Rob Moore Milosky - Eric (Sparky) Edwards Travis Lindsey - Kevin McDonald
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