Making the Grades
The old adage may state, "A change is as good as a rest," but Mr. Roger Hobbs (James Stewart) will never believe a word of it. Wanting a break from the old grind of commuting and working, the middle-aged banker arranges a romantic get-away for himself and his wife Peggy (Maureen O'Hara).
Unbeknownst to him, the Mrs. has other things in mind. She too has been pining for something different than the daily routine, however the almost empty-nester thinks the answer is a family reunion. Thanks to a kind offer from a friend, she has a month's access to a beach house that is roomy enough for the whole clan.
Grumbling all the way, Mr. Hobbs loads up the station wagon with his equally unenthusiastic teen-aged daughter (Lauri Peters), TV-addicted son (Michael Burns), and put-upon Finnish maid (Minerva Urecal). The idea is to have their two married daughters (Natalie Trundy and Lili Gentle), two son-in-laws (Josh Peine and John Saxon) and three grandchildren meet them at the coastal retreat.
Like so many well-laid plans, things don't exactly work out as expected -- beginning with their accommodations. Although the cottage is large, it is also antiquated, dilapidated, and in need of some reliable plumbing. Despite the abundance of sunshine, each of the vacationers seems to have packed along their own dark cloud. And the heralded arrival of the oldest siblings is quickly overshadowed by their unruly tots and obvious signs of marital discord.
Trapped together under one roof, pressure mounts and tempers threaten to blow just as often as the unstable water pipes. Only one thing is for sure: No one is going to experience anything remotely resembling a rest.
Although billed as a family comedy, much of the movie's humor is derived from some more-adult themes. Take, for instance, the blonde bombshell (Valerie Varda) that shares their stretch of sand. Always clad in a bathing suit, she's happy to flirt with both Mr. Hobbs and his son-in-law Byron (John Saxon) -- and successfully manages to attract the attention of the younger man's wandering eye. Then there is the visit from the Turners (John McGiver and Marie Wilson), prospective employers for the other daughter's husband. They claim to be teetotalers, yet Mr. Hobbs discovers otherwise when he inadvertently gets stuck in the bathroom with a naked and tipsy Mrs. Turner (continued boiler problems provide plenty of stream to obscure visibility) and consequently meets with the jealous wrath of a drunken Mr. Turner.
What is more likely to appeal to parents and children is James Stewart's performance as the exasperated father. Narrating some scenes with the unspoken thoughts passing through his mind, the befuddled man attempts to appease his wife, live up to his son's heroic expectations, encourage his shy child, and not interfere with the upbringing of the grandchildren. Also sure to draw some smiles is the inclusion of the typical 60s musical number (sung by Lauri Peters and then pop-sensation Fabian).
While Mr. Hobbs' efforts do result in a few moments of family bonding, most of the time they feel as futile as his vain battle to make it through the pages of Tolstoy's War and Peace--his holiday reading choice. One can only concur--with kin like his, who needs a vacation!
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation.
One of the arguments between a married daughter and her spouse is over the proper type of discipline to use on their out of control son. How do the philosophies they site epitomize the child psychology of their day? Why do you think fads exist in methods of rearing families? How do you feel about Mr. Hobbs’ snide comment that, “In all the history of the world, there has never been a child that was brought up right!”