How I Spent My Summer Vacation - Blu-ray Review

'Mel has got the groans when he jumps and rolls, he's got the soft-at-heart-centre, he's got the funny run where he puts his arms too high up in the air. He is, still, getting too old for this shit.'

In this month's issue of Empire, Arnold Schwarzenegger talks at length about 'needing to start again', with new age-appropriate rolls, re-establishing brand Schwarzenegger as a prime movie star. There's no mention of the former Governor's personal life in the interview (presumably a topic declared taboo by his press agent), no touching on the fact that his reputation was in tatters not so long ago and that his career as a politician is marked by his big spending policies. Though Schwarzenegger is 'starting again', the reasons behind his need to do so are tactfully left far away from the table. He is a politician, after all.

Jump sideways and land on How I Spent My Summer Vacation or, Get The Gringo, depending on your territory, or, The One Where Mel Starts Again... Again, depending on your knowledge of his personal life. Mel Gibson may be some months ahead of Schwarzenegger in his own comeback from yet another public discretion but his journey is similar: re-attach to the values and roles which once made him great, do everything possible to separate the on-screen man from the off-screen one. And so, in Empire yet again a couple of months ago, we had Mel with compatriot Danny Glover and director Dick Donner, reminiscing over old, more wholesome times.

The only surprise with Summer Vacation after all that is that Glover doesn't make a one-line-friendly cameo appearance. Mel is back, pretty much as a washed-up, criminalised version of Lethal Weapon's Riggs. He's got the groans when he jumps and rolls, he's got the soft-at-heart-centre, he's got the funny run where he puts his arms too high up in the air. He is, still, getting too old for this shit.

Does any of that fit in with his character? Yes and no. In a way, it doesn't matter. This is Mel, back, trying to prove he can do it on the big screen still. Do we really care about his characterisation? And, in a way, of course it matters. Riggs is a cop. The nameless antagonist here is a mob-involved criminal. Clearly director Adrian Grunberg, who co-wrote the script with Gibson, is less concerned with rounded characters, more concerned with Mel's happiness, his ability to appear as the idealised version of Mel.

The rest of the film plays out predictably in a perfectly acceptable way. The village prison feels a bit far-fetched but the narrator (also Mel) accepts it with barely a comment and so then, after a time, do you. The tone gets a bit grim towards the end, as Grunberg sidesteps oddly to Body Horror, but that too the film gets away with, a harder edge in a light Mel offering being nothing particularly new to those who saw Payback.

In the end Summer Vacation does what it was designed to do: it puts Mel back on screen, in a film you can get along with fairly easily, in a role which both recalls former glories and gives him something to build on. Mel may not be as much of a politician as Arnie but, make no mistake, this is a political film, acting as the very opposite of a character assassination. At least it has the good grace to be entertaining whilst it's doing that.



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