A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Underlying message is about the sanctity of family and respect for parents. But the negative behavior and themes are so extreme that they may overwhelm the positive message for some viewers: Reckless behavior -- such as underage drinking, flirting with sex workers, and getting into fistfights -- is portrayed as OK, especially when it's men and boys acting inappropriately. Girls are also expected to be image-obsessed and fearful of gaining weight.
Positive Role Models
Clark is well-meaning, but actions speak louder than words: He prioritizes his own wishes over those of his family, lies, gets into fistfights, and in general acts recklessly. Rusty gets drunk and flirts with sex workers without consequences. Ellen is the long-suffering and level-headed wife who must keep her husband in check, while Audrey falls deeply into stereotypes about teen girls being boy-obsessed and fearful of weight gain.
The film follows a White family as they travel through London, Paris, Germany, and Rome. All minor and supporting characters are White, except for a room full of East Asian men in suits at a burlesque bar, which stereotypes Asian men as "perverts." Audrey's character arc is deeply fatphobic: She doesn't want to go to Europe at first because the food is "fattening." Her boyfriend agrees, saying "I like her thin." She has a dream about eating too much food and becoming fat -- it's portrayed as a nightmare, complete with horror music and buttons popping off her clothes. An injured/disabled man who walks with a cane and cast is the butt of visual gags: Clark slams a door on his injury, smacks him in the face, etc.
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Violence & Scariness
All violence is played for comedy: An adult man forces a long kiss onto an underage teen on TV. A man pins a woman to a bed against her will (they're fully dressed) and kidnaps her at gunpoint. A cyclist is hit by a car and covered in bloody scrapes; he briefly squirts blood from his wrist. Fistfights. A dog wriggles out of a woman's arms at the top of the Eiffel tower and falls into a river.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
An extended scene takes place at a burlesque club where women dance bare-breasted. A 15-year-old makes out with a woman who takes her top off, showing her breasts. Parents have a healthy and active sexual relationship: The wife dances suggestively in a towel and flashes her husband (nothing sensitive shown). A video of parents having sex accidentally gets out to the public, but it's also not shown on-screen. A teen boy picks up a postcard with a classical painting of a nude woman on it. Plenty of sexual innuendo: Characters talk about "porking," and when Audrey sees a plate of sauerkraut with a huge sausage on it or hears about "sacrificed virgins," she sighs wistfully and says, "God, I miss Jack."
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Frequent strong language, mostly sexual, like "t-ts," "ass," "slut." One use of "f--k" in French (displayed in English subtitles). Characters also say "s--t," "a--holes," "damn," and "bitch," and use "God" in a non-religious context. "Fat" is used a few times with a negative meaning.
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Products & Purchases
Mercedes and Fiat cars and Pan Am airplanes are visible. A character orders Coca-Cola at a restaurant.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
An adult who's upset says she's going to get "plastered." One scene with lots of beer drinking in the background. Teen son gets drunk once.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that National Lampoon's European Vacation is the second movie in the National Lampoon road comedy series. It has lots of sexual content, including innuendo, bare breasts, adults who make a sex tape, and teens making out and dating. Language includes one instance of "f--k" in French (displayed in English subtitles), plus "s--t," "a--holes," "damn," "t-ts," "fat," etc. Characters drink, and two (including a 15-year-old) get drunk. Comic violence includes blood squirting out of a character's wrist after he's hit by a car, fistfights, an adult man forcing a long kiss onto an underage teen on TV, and a man wrestling a woman onto a bed (they're fully clothed) and kidnapping her at gunpoint. The film tries to share a message about family togetherness, but it's overshadowed by poor role models, gender stereotypes, and glaring fatphobia. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This broad comedy touches on all the funny and awful elements of family travel, from bickering siblings to managing unfamiliar customs. But teens might cringe at the way they're portrayed in National Lampoon's European Vacation, with Audrey obsessed with her boyfriend and accepting toxic messages about her body and Rusty falling into macho clichés about "boys being boys," getting drunk, and seeing his fair share of breasts. While the movie clearly aims to poke fun at extreme behaviors, some younger viewers might not understand the complexity of the issues.
At face value, the movie's typical slapstick stuff -- poking someone in the groin, silly car chases, etc. -- provides mild amusement, and a few scenes (like when the family lose their luggage and go boutique shopping in Italy) are truly laugh-out-loud. But the jokes that don't work fall incredibly flat, such as laughing at a teen girl who exhibits all the traits of an eating disorder, or having a much older man force a passionate kiss onto her. If you can get past these relics of 1980s-style humor, you might be able to find something to enjoy during the rest of the movie.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.