National Lampoon's Thanksgiving Family Reunion (2003) / Comedy
aka National Lampoon's Holiday Reunion
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG-13 for crude humor, drug references, and sexuality
Running Time: 90 min.
Cast: Judge Reinhold, Bryan Cranston, Penelope Ann Miller, Hallie Todd, Meghan Ory, Calum Worthy, Britt Irvin, Reece Thompson, Antony Holland
Director: Neal Israel
Screenplay: Marc Warren, Dennis Rinsler
Review published November 25, 2003
It plays a lot like a Vacation flick, but instead of the Griswolds, we have the Sniders. Thanksgiving Family Reunion is National Lampoon's attempt to give to the Thanksgiving holiday what they were able to do with Christmas Vacation, a film that can be shown every year around the same time. With a dearth of Thanksgiving related movies out there, it would seem like it shouldn't have too much trouble, but there's one hitch to this ever becoming a perennial holiday classic: almost no one would ever choose to see it a second time.
Reinhold (Beverly Hills Cop, Roadhouse 66) plays an anesthesiologist to the stars who hopes to do something more normal with his California family this year: celebrate with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner instead of going out to a restaurant like they do every year. Coincidentally, he receives an invitation from a little known cousin in Idaho (Cranston, Seeing Other People) to come spend the Thanksgiving holiday with them, which has Reinhold thinking of a large family gathering around the table -- just the way Thanksgiving should be. However, when he gets there, he finds his cousin is a burnt-out white-trash hippie, with an eccentric lifestyle and equally weird wife (Todd, The Lizzie McGuire Movie) and kids. Reinhold and clan long for the comforts of their California home again, but are obligated to stay a little while, if they can survive the bizarre customs of their strange kinship.
Although it's made by the folks from National Lampoon, Thanksgiving Family Reunion is still completely devoid of any fresh laughs. Much of the humor dips into the usual crude bag of tricks, and although made for television, that doesn't stop them from injecting the film with fart jokes, sexual innuendo, and a persistent crotch-sniffing dog.
I'm not a big fan of the Vacation films, but at least underneath all of the low-brow activity, there was an underlying sense of family that is largely lacking here. Even the Thanksgiving angle is ignored much of the time, utilizing more as a gimmick to attract a holiday audience than in tying the traditions into the story in any way.
Thanksgiving Family Reunion is the kind of film that will bring your family closer together on Thanksgiving, because if this is what passes as holiday entertainment, you'll want to keep the TV shut off. The only genuine laugh it evoked from me came from TBS announcement that National Lampoon's Thanksgiving Family Reunion would be brought to us by Hoover vacuum cleaners. (Add "suck" joke here). Thanks to TBS for giving us our Thanksgiving turkey early this year.
©2003 Vince Leo