I think road trip movies are among the most challenging to write. There’s usually very little sense that the events of these films must occur, or that they must occur in the order in which they do, which tends to make everything feel arbitrary. This, in turn, can make for a very weak movie – unless the comedy is strong. Unfortunately, and much to my surprise, the comedy isn’t strong here.
I think I only laughed a handful of times throughout the film – maybe four – and I’m not sure how that’s possible from John Hughes. The key difference between this film and Hughes’ better work seems to be that he usually features very likable main characters. The characters in this film are jerks, so I don’t enjoy watching them. I also felt throughout that much of the humor was relying on highly judgmental stereotypes of people and places, so I find the film somewhat offensive.
That being said, the best case I can make for the film is actually related to the aspects to which I take offense. I think it has a lot of what I call “cultural utility.” It’s a very useful film in that it can be used to understand American culture better. It’s very rare to see a depiction of the white American middle class that so perfectly captures its hatred of white trash, its sexual tensions, its struggles to embody the ideas we have of what the white middle class should be, its racist fears, its respect for religions it doesn’t understand, and its all-around pathetic insanity. For anyone outside the United States who wants to understand why and how Americans seems so crazy, watching this film is a good place to start.