National Lampoon’s Senior Trip
Release Date: September 8, 1995
Director: Kelly Makin
Writers: Roger Kumble, I. Marlene King
Starring: Matt Frewer, Valerie Mahaffey, Jeremy Renner, Lawrence Dane, Tommy Chong, Kevin McDonald
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
“National Lampoon” was a well known humor magazine that ran from 1970 to 1998. The magazine formed as a spinoff of Harvard’s “Harvard Lampoon”. The magazine was very popular in the 1970s and spawned a series of comedy movies that included their title. The most famous of their films include “Animal House” and the “Vacation” movie series starring Chevy Chase. At the turn of the century, “National Lampoon” started a corporation and generated low budget raunchy comedy films that you would only be able to find at your local video store (which are extinct) or streaming services. One of the last “National Lampoon” films to be released in theater’s was 1995’s “National Lampoon’s Senior Trip”.
It’s a typical teen comedy with a realistic plot. The students at the fictional Fairmount High School in Columbus, OH write a letter about how bad the education system when several students blame school for not wanting to learn and party all the time. The letter reaches the desk of the President of the United States who phones their Senator and personally invite them to Washington D.C. to help support the President’s new Education Bill. Despite the Senator having his own Education Bill lined up and seeking higher office, he intends to use the ‘slacker students’ to embarrass him and push his own agenda. The Senator arrives at the school and instructs their principal, Todd Moss (played by Matt Frewer) to get them to Washington on time. The road trip doesn’t go as smoothly and on schedule as the students get themselves into crazy shenanigans on and off the bus.
I remember seeing the trailer for this movie on the VHS copy of ‘Dumb and Dumber’. I was a pre- teen when I saw the trailer and it looked like a pretty funny movie. Unfortunately the movie was rated ‘R’ and I had strict parents who would not let me watch anything that above a ‘PG-13’ rating. Eventually the film made its way onto the small screen and I watched it on my local channel. I watched it with a friend and we enjoyed this movie. A decade later, I found this movie on DVD at a local store where I buy all my movies. Not surprising to this review, the movie still holds up.
This film relates to the experiences we went through in High School (although I’m sure none of you stole a bunch of beer from a mini mart, break stuff at a five star hotel or having your bus driver die on the way to Washington). You can relate to any of the character that best fit your personality in high school. If you were a computer nerd, you were the character Virus. If you were a straight A scholar, you were either Steve or Lisa. If you were a vengeful trekkie, you were Travis. One thing these characters have in common is they like to party and they get along real well in this film (unlike real world where you were in your groups). There are some scenes of drugs and sex, but it’s only a pinch of it compared to most of the other ‘National Lampoon’ movies or other teen comedies.
I thoroughly enjoyed the performances of each character. All of them had great chemistry together. Each character had their own standout moments. Matt Frewer’s portrayal of Principal Moss reminds me of a real life Principal McVicker from “Beavis and Butt-Head”. He’s very spastic, agitated and punctual and finds himself in uneasy situations. This movie was the feature film debut of Jeremy Renner. He plays the leader of the class named Dags who is a stoner and the vigilante of the school. His antics are praised by many and loathed by some. Then there’s Kevin McDonald who plays Travis, the school crossing guard and an obsessed Star Trek fan. He lives in his basement that is built to replicate the enterprise, carries around a blow up doll dressed like Uhura and he is obsessed with seeking revenge on Reggie (Dag’s sidekick). With the exception of a confrontation in the movie, there’s no explanation as to why Travis is out to kill Reggie. It’s funny seeing him trying to get to Reggie, but ends up being caught in an unpleasant scenario when things start happening to him. He talks to himself and only speaks in Star Trek language. I can relate to that because I’ve known quite a few people that were serious Trekkies.
The best performance by far is Tommy Chong as Red, the bus driver. In pure Tommy Chong fashion, he steals every scene he is in. He blends in with the students and praises them for their mad partying habits.
This film manages to bring up a moral issue at the end. They talk about the importance of education for future generations. It’s funny how the students define themselves as the poster children of slackers and losers with no future as a way to get their message across. This film came out in 1995 when Bill Clinton was pushing for a better education program for kids in America. Maybe he watched this film to help advance his narrative? (Wouldn’t surprised me if he did.
I believe this is one of the most underrated teen comedies to come out in the 90s. It may not be the cream of the crop in the ‘National Lampoon’ film library, but this has enough chuckles to keep you entertained.
- Jeremy Renner’s first feature film.
- The bus driver “Red” played by Tommy Chong hums the tune and sings some of the lyrics from the song “Earache My Eye”, which was the song that Chong and Cheech Marin play at the end of their film “Up In Smoke”.