Plot: Dr. Mitch Snyder (Judge Reinhold) loves his family and thanks to his financial status, he can provide a comfortable lifestyle for his loved ones and ensure all their needs are more than met. But while he is glad for the positives of his life, he has a real desire to be more of a family man and as his wife and kids often pull away, he starts to think a change is needed. He wants to start with Thanksgiving and host an old fashioned meal, but his family doesn’t want to cook, clean, or even show up. When he receives an invitation from an estranged relative, he leaps at the chance and he packs up the family to head to the rural residence of cousin Woodrow (Bryan Cranston). Will this be the classic style family holiday that Mitch hopes, or will things spiral out of control thanks to Woodrow’s offbeat lifestyle?
Entertainment Value: While the National Lampoon brand has been involved with some classic comedies, from Animal House to Vacation, the label has also been slapped onto a wealth of lackluster productions. Holiday Reunion falls into the latter camp, as this is just a total misfire that barely manages a few laughs, despite a decent cast and a familiar, but reliable premise. The narrative leans on the odd couple dynamic of Mitch and Woodrow, which would be a good choice if the material was passable, but it falls flat outside of a few early scenes. The awkward family reunion concept has a lot of potential for humor, but Holiday Reunion seems disinterested in character or family driven humor, opting for generic comedy that seems disjointed here. This is the kind of comedy that just throws a lot of jokes at the wall and hopes some will stick, but very little of the humor works here, to be kind. Even if you’re a big fan of Bryan Cranston or the National Lampoon brand, there’s not much here to like.
I have to think the reason most people will find Holiday Reunion is the involvement of Bryan Cranston, who made this clunker while he was on Malcolm in the Middle, but before his rise to stardom in Breaking Bad. I appreciate Cranston’s dramatic talents, but it is nice to see him back in a comedic role again, even though he isn’t given much chance to shine here. He embraces the silliness of Woodrow and tries to make the quirks lend some humor, but he can do only so much. At the same time, a nude shower scene with Cranston trying to soap up Judge Reinhold is a highlight and the main reason to endure this movie. Reinhold is fine here and also tries to make the role work, but just doesn’t good material to work with. The two don’t have much chemistry either, which hurts the odd couple focused narrative. The cast also includes Penelope Ann Miller and Hallie Todd, while Neal Israel directed this picture.