• Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation

    Released by: Twilight Time Releasing
    Released on: May, 2014.
    Director: Henry Koster
    Cast: Jimmy Stewart, Maureen O'HaraYear: 1962
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    The Movie:

    You would be excused if you read a synopsis of Henry Koster’s Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation and expected a fairly predictable and innocuous affair. The titular patriarch (Mr. Hobbs) begrudgingly agrees, at the insistence of his wife (Maureen O’Hara), to invite the entire family (and their respective spouses and children) for a get-together only to discover that things seem to go awry from the very start. Over the course of the vacation, we follow Mr. Hobbs through a series of humorous episodic adventures in which he is able to bond with his children and emerge from the entire experience with a greater appreciation of his family. You’ve doubtless seen variations of this scenario before, with differing degrees of success, and so the question is whether or not Koster’s film distinguishes itself in the end. I’m happy to report that it does.

    The entire affair is pulled off with a great deal of style and witty humor. For one thing, the film has a superb score by Henry Mancini (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Pink Panther). A lot of the jokes on display are on a high level (literary and pop-culture references abound) which express a slyly ironic, if somewhat reactionary, sensibility. Chalk that up to the film’s origins as a novel by Edward Streeter. Streeter was a novelist in the mid-20th century whose works often mined middle-to-upper class angst; he’s probably most famous for writing Father of the Bride, which was adapted into a film two times (once with Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor in 1950, and again with Steve Martin and Diane Keaton in 1991) and it’s not hard to draw the parallels between that story and Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation.

    Although the theatrical trailer for this film makes the case that the story has multi-generational appeal, one cannot help but think that the film lightheartedly condescends to both generations of Mr. Hobbs’s children. The older kids are a veritable fount of dysfunction that threatens to end the vacation before it even begins. Susan (Natalie Trundy) and her husband Stan Carver (Josh Peine) have children that are always horribly misbehaving. When Mr. Hobbs asks how they discipline their kids, he’s shocked to hear that they “don’t believe in saying ‘no’ to them,” something they’ve gleaned from modern psychology. Then there’s Janie (Lili Gentle) who is married to Byron Grant (John Saxon), a pretentious college professor whose overtly verbose pronunciations are also subject to ridicule.

    When we look at the two younger children, we see the film take a slightly deprecating look at youth culture. Katey (Lauri Peters) is always complaining to anyone who will listen how “weird” her parents are, and Danny (Michael Burns) spends the first half of his vacation locked up in a room watching Westerns on television. It doesn’t take a great leap of the imagination to figure out that Mr. Hobbs will be able to make an emotional connection with each of these kids, and while Katey and her eventual love interest Joe (late 50s teen idol Fabian) share a love song in a pizza shop that’s utterly contrived and shamelessly pandering, for the most part the film is able to present this inoffensive material in a fairly likable manner.

    There’s also a great bit of extended comedy in the appearance of Mr. and Mrs. Turner (John McGiver and Marie Wilson), an utterly demented middle-age couple who descend upon the family’s house in the final reel. Mr. Turner takes Mr. Hobbs on a bird-watching expedition that provides some of the best gags in the entire film, including a hilarious bit where Mr. Turner teaches Mr. Hobbs how to walk properly. However, as is typical of the film’s subtly caustic nature, it’s not all merely a goofy lark; the reason for the Turners showing up at all is that Susan’s husband Stan has been unemployed for months and the Hobbs must host them in order to establish Stan’s character to Mr. Turner, his potential employer.

    Sometimes it pays to look on the margins of a film. While on the whole Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation is good-natured escapist entertainment (aided in no small part by James Stewart’s indefatigable appeal), you can detect in it a lot of the economic concerns and anxieties that were percolating in the minds of the American working class at the dawn of the 1960s. After all, what else can you say about Marika (a very lovely and very funny Valerie Varda), the predatory blonde bombshell who shows up on the beach and who is a bit too inquisitive about how much money Mr. Hobbs makes? When confronted by his wife, Mr. Hobbs claims that she's just a kid, but to quote Mrs. Hobbs: “That was Humbert Humbert’s first report on Little Goody Two Shoes, wasn't it?”


    Twilight Time’s blu-ray of Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation presents the film in a 1080p high definition transfer in 2.35:1. Although there are a few tiny specks and imperfections throughout, these are so small and insignificant that they’re hardly noticeable. The transfer is bright and sharp with plenty of naturalistic grain. An excellent video presentation.

    The audio is presented in a lossless mono DTS-HD track that is in excellent condition; there is good balance between the dialogue and Mancini’s great score. There’s no instance of distortion or irregularities to report. There are also optional English SDH subtitles.

    The main drawing card of any Twilight Time release is the Isolated Score Track; just switch to the track and hear Mancini’s enjoyable jazz-tinged music in a robust DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. There’s a brief (just over a minute) vintage Movietown Movie Lot advertising the making of the film, an original theatrical trailer and a catalogue listing of all of Twilight Time’s releases. Julie Kirgo provides excellent liner notes.

    The Final Word:

    Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation offers the modern viewer an interesting snapshot of an era. It features two strong and likable leads in Stewart and O’Hara, not to mention a neglected score by the legendary composer Mancini. Twilight Time’s BD releases are limited to 3,000 copies so all interested parties are of course advised to proceed quickly before they run out.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!