A film review by Craig J. Koban




2004, R, 89 mins.


Scott: Scot Thomas / Cooper: Jacob Pitts / Jenny: Michelle Trachtenberg / Donny: Matt Damon / Madame Vandersexx: Lucy Lawless / Mieke: Jessica Bohrs

Directed by Jeff Schaffer / Written by Alec Berg & David Mandel & Jeff Schaffer

EUROTRIP is the worst kind of slime-infested cinematic gutter trash.  Not only is it not funny, but also hopelessly and utterly desperate and inept in its laughs.  Hell, it does not even deserve any mention or praise as good trash. 

Now, before I get on my critical tirade here, let me be the first to say that I am never, ever against a good teen/sex comedy.  The first two AMERICAN PIE films were prime examples of them, as was ROAD TRIP and OLD SCHOOL.  Yet, the makers of EUROTRIP made a catastrophic error in execution.  Sure, they got the sex  part right, and there is plenty of lewdness and crudeness in this area.  The one prime ingredient they forgot was…well…comedy.  This is a shame, and shocking to a degree, when you consider the people behind the scenes in this film.  Alec Berg, David Mandel, and Jeff Schaffer have all seen work in the past writing a handful of episodes of TV's SEINFELD.  All I can say is “wow”, because their obvious talents in writing a sitcom about nothing has led to a film that is a comedic nothing. 

Okay, there are actually two really big laughs in the film.  One occurs early and features a cameo by Matt Damon as a punk rock band singer, who is revealed to have slept with the girlfriend of Scott Thomas (Scott Mechlowicz, a poor man’s Hayden Christensen, if there is such a thing).  Damon sings a song at a graduation party that reveals him to be the man Scott’s girlfriend cheated on him with.  It’s an uproariously funny moment.  Another big laugh occurs with an all-too-brief moment that relishes in the astronomic popularity of David Hasselhoff as a German pop singer (some say he’s as big as Michael Jackson in Germany, those wacky people over there). 

These two moments are funny, but the rest of the film is a witless parade of overly predictable jokes that lack payoff.  EUROTRIP goes on a far too big list of modern comedies that choose lots of ample nudity, crudeness, and gross out jokes to work for it instead of inspired moments of hilarity.  I remember a kinder and gentler Hollywood where I laughed with and at characters because they were funny.  Now, its like some sick, cosmic joke is being inflicted on me with the speed and haste of IBM cruise missile.  Boy, I sure don’t think electrodes on testicles are funny, nor do I find molestation, incest, or jokes that play on broad, silly, and grossly exaggerated stereotypes humorous.  If EUROTRIP was taken too literally, and it should not, then the respective European countries shown in it should form a collective civil lawsuit versus the makers of the film for defamation of character. 

But, really, would that be worth the time, money, and effort, especially for a film that features a child lampooning Hitler.  Boy, nothing like some good old’ Holocaust humor to win over our overly PC crowds now, huh?   

The film’s plot, which is a loose term to describe a structure that is built around nudity, tasteless jokes, and bad caricatures, centers on Scott and his recent break-up with his girlfriend.  He discovers this upon graduating from high school, which never helps, especially when this should be a high point in his life.  Nevertheless, Scotty has other plans with his life.  He soon discovers that his German email buddy, whom he once thought was a man, is actually a hot girl.  Of course, during a drunken stupor one evening, he emails the girl (still thinking she’s a he making advances at him) and tells her to leave him alone.  When he learns the true nature of his computer friend, he is devastated, at least until the point where he decides to embark on a European Vacation with his other friends to track her down in an effort to have sex with her, it seems (no, seriously).  His companions are the obligatory sexaholic and crazy - Cooper (Jacob Pitts), the nerd who becomes a sex god -  Jamie (Travis Wester) and the tomboy that’s really quite hot - Jenny (Michelle Trachtenberg).  I guess Clark Griswald, already seeing much of Europe in the similar themed 1985 film, felt the need to stay home this time. 

The trio fearlessly goes backpacking through Europe through a succession of famous European capitals, many of which are shown in horribly bad CGI compositing (the film was all shot in Prague, with famous landmarks put in with the aid of computers; the effect is so obvious it's completely distracting at times).  Each visit to a new town reveals different racial stereotypes…er…I mean…characters,  that the trio bump into.  The most alarmingly offensive is Vinnie and his “Red Army” of Manchester United goons in a London pup.  I have not seen such overblown caricatures this lame since the heyday of Griffith.  They are loud, boisterous, violent, foul-mouthed, and not the least bit representational of what London has to offer. 

The offensive figures continue to pile up, from an Amsterdam sex club dominatrix, to an Amsterdam hash brownie pub (dammit, there’s gotta be more to this place than drugs and sex, right?), to the god-awful scene in a German family’s home where the son seems to think playing Hitler is fun.  Yup, made me tingle and feel all warm inside.  The three also take a trip to the dreaded Eastern Europe where the meet a man that is addicted to 1980’s television, and a French nude beach that seems to be populated by a bunch of salivating serial rapists (I think?).  Oh, did I also mention that it has scenes involving an anal probe that looks like a jaws of life, a couple having sex in a confessional with one’s ass cheeks running up against the mesh, and a ridiculously forced and would-be shocking scene of a drunk brother and sister making out in a nightclub. 

EUROTRIP is characterized by a level of desperation not seen in many comedies of this genre.  Even the worst ones have some genuinely surprising laughs in it.  Everything is just so telegraphed that jokes can be seen a mile away.  The film has no idea that it milks old jokes too often, especially when it comes to a street mime and a scene aboard a train involving a sexual pervert that just never felt like it was going to end…ever.  The film is stale, lifeless, and joyless, and is populated by characters that, if they were not so galactically stupid, would be that much more endearing to the audience.  The leads are all equally bland and seem a bit too reserved for the type of wackiness the film tries to deliver.  Their lack of whimsicality and wit make me think constantly that all this film needs is a good Stiffler, in-between me thinking that I wanted to see more nudity, as that was the only appealing aesthetic quality the film possessed. 

Now, I have been a long-time supporter of crude, politically incorrect, offensive, and gross-out humor.  Mel Brooks made Hitler funny in THE PRODUCERS, and also made a cowboy’s penchant for beans and their terrible side effects funny in BLAZING SADDLES.  Woody Allen made sex funny in ANNIE HALL, with its fresh characters and earthy and frank dialogue.  And, yes, even the Farrelly Brothers are geniuses of stomach-churning foulness (who would have thought that a guy catching his unmentionables in his zipper and using a particular bodily fluid as a hair product could be so funny?). 

Yet, those films succeed for a simple reason – there is intelligence and wit behind their humor, as well as a sense of resonation with their well-realized characters.  The key to the infamous scene in THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY is that we laugh because, God help him, Ben Stiller is just such a socially awkward and shy guy that his predicament makes us laugh out of a form of perverse sympathy.  In a film like EUROTRIP, we get the same level of disgustingness, but without any context.  It’s all surface without anything behind it.

Hitchcock once said that the difference between action and suspense is that, in action, we would see a bomb go off and in suspense we would see two men talking while we know a bomb is about to go off in the same room at any minute.  I will offer up my own theory about comedy –  comedies work when we have some sort of emotional connection with the characters we care about.  It fails to be funny and becomes just sick and gross when it's empty at its core.  That’s EUROTRIP in a nutshell.  And, c’mon, didn't NATIONAL LAMPOON’S EUROPEAN VACATION say everything we need to know about the comic high jinks of a bunch a silly Americans journeying to strange countries already?  Well, yeah, it did, and it sure as hell was funnier than this.  EUROTRIP is like that piece of gummy sludge that often appears at the bottom of one’s shoes.  It’s gross to look at and stinks, but will not last with you as long as you scrap it off your foot and go on.

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