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Anchor Bay presents
"It's all about Mental Illness, Mr. Spinnaker. I'm here concerning a former classmate of yours, you may remember him—Walter Baylor."
DVD ReviewBetween the successful Animal House and Vacation, the good folks at National Lampoon magazine produced Class Reunion, one of the few early-1980's comedies NOT featuring any Saturday Night Live alumni. The plot concerns the ten-year reunion of the Lizzie Borden High Class of '72, populated by all the standard characters (the preppie, the bitch, the homecoming queen, the druggies, and the nerd) and a few non-standard ones (the vampire, the possessed girl, and the blind/deaf girl). Chuck Berry stops by to kick out a few rockin' tunes, but the festivities are soon interrupted by an insane classmate seeking revenge over an embarrassing practical joke played on him ten years earlier. He succeeds in offing a number of his most-hated targets, but a little psychology and caring from his former classmates allows him to reclaim his humanity in time for the end credits to roll.
There are many reasons this film is not as fondly remembered as some of the other NatLamp movies. The script was the first produced effort by John Hughes (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Home Alone) and seems to have been inspired by the classic "High School Yearbook Parody" the magazine published in the 1970's. The cast features some talented comic actors saddled with underdeveloped characters, including Gerrit Graham as former Class President Bob Spinnaker, Miriam Flynn as bubbly Bunny Packard, and Stephen Furst as John Belushi-esque Hubert Downs. They struggle gamely but end up sinking in Hughes' far-too-safe script—the jokes are sophomoric and occasionally tasteless but never truly outrageous, and the happy ending utterly fails to amuse. Michael Miller's direction has almost no comic flair or sense of pacing—he glosses over the film's few inspired ideas and allows lesser gags too much screen time, and the "horror" scenes are played as "old dark house" melodrama with not nearly enough gore to meet the film's "slasher parody" ambitions. Chuck Berry's appearance is entertaining, and there are a few good lines here and there (Hughes comes by his writing credit honestly, having written some fine material for the National Lampoon humor magazine prior to this project). But the film never really gets rolling as a comedic whole—the biggest laughs turn up during the opening credits and in the "stoner" scenes, never a good sign.
Rating for Style: D
Rating for Substance: C-
Image Transfer Review: Anchor Bay presents National Lampoon's Class Reunion in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio with a non-anamorphic transfer. The source print is fairly clean but the transfer has significant problems—it's visibly grainy throughout, with heavy grain in dark scenes, and black level is light, almost a dark brown at times. Color is otherwise good and the image is free of noticeable digital compression artifacts, but this is a below-average transfer by current DVD standards.
Image Transfer Grade: C-
Audio Transfer Review: National Lampoon's Class Reunion was theatrically released in Dolby Stereo, but this DVD release features a genuine Dolby 2.0 Surround soundtrack (though only Dolby Stereo is mentioned on the packaging). This apparent remix is quite effective, too, with sound effects, dramatic music and even some key dialogue directed to the rear channels. The opening theme song (by Gary U.S. Bonds) and a few tunes by rock icon Chuck Berry sound great with decent bass and frequency range; a Dolby Stereo consultant is listed in the film's credits, so perhaps some extra attention was lavished on this movie's audio. Some crowd-scene dialogue is muddy and hard-to-hear, but this film sounds a lot better than I expected considering its age and overall level of quality.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Extras Review: Anchor Bay's National Lampoon's Class Reunion DVD is "bare-bones"—it has a silent, static title screen, 19 chapter stops with picture selection menus, and absolutely no trailers, subtitles, commentaries or other supplements. It's being marketed as a "budget line" title, so extensive supplements aren't necessarily expected, but it's still just above the "F" line in the extras department.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsNational Lampoon's Class Reunion tries to combine social satire with "slasher" genre parody, but neither aspect works very well. At least it's not a generic teen sex comedy, and it's still better than MAD magazine's Up the Academy, but a few chuckles here and there do not a comedy masterpiece make. Anchor Bay's DVD features solid audio but mediocre image quality and no supplements to speak of, though National Lampoon completists may still find it a worthwhile purchase thanks to its comfortably low suggested retail price.
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