Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation

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Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation (1962) was a staple of my childhood. It became a sort of unspoken tradition that this was the movie we’d watch when we got home from vacation. We’d crash on the sofa still smelling like four days of camping and dad would pop our VHS of Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation into the VCR. My brother, my father and I quoted this movie pretty regularly. Often we would call our father “Boom-Pa” just to mess with him.

Henry Koster, the director of Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation, is one of those filmmakers you look up whenever you see one of his films and then you’re startled by the other films he’s made. In addition to this classic Koster directed The Singing Nun (1966), The Robe (1953), Harvey (1950) and The Bishop’s Wife (1947). All four of these films are more renowned than Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation, however none of them feature Fabian. It’s clear that Henry Koster was a competent filmmaker; he was a journeyman director, tackling whatever the studio handed with with class and wit.

Koster delivers with Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation; the film has excellent comic timing and all of the performers are excellent, especially James Stewart and Maureen O’Hara as Mr. and Mrs. Hobbs. Some of the humor and the politics are dated but they’re never shocking. The great weakness in the film is actually Fabian who never really seems genuine and whose song is pretty forgettable. Besides that Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation is really effective, even touching on some more taboo concepts such as infidelity with enough tact, humor and innuendo that the wacky tone of the film never gets too dark.

The standout section of the film comes when the Turners (John McGiver and Marie Wilson) visit the Hobbs’ vacation home. There’s a great recurring joke regarding Barn Swallows and James Stewart doing one of the silliest of walks ever captured on film. This sequence is quickly followed with a bedroom farce where Mr. Hobbs accidentally locks himself in the bathroom with a showering Mrs. Turner. In this latter sequence the film adeptly lays to bare the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie.

Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation isn’t a masterpiece or anything, it’s just a lot of goofy fun. James Stewart is so good as the fuddy-duddy dad type. One can’t help but think that this film must have loomed large in John Hughes’ imagination when he wrote the National Lampoon’s Vacation films. There’s a lot of overlap between the two in terms of balancing more adult themes with kiddie entertainment. One of the areas where I think Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation actually succeeds more than Hughes’ scripts is how it dodges class conflicts. The Classist attitudes of the Chevy Chase vehicles has always sat uncomfortably with me and rendered those films as unintentional grotesques of suburban American life.

Seeing Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation is much better on disc than it was on VHS, in case one had any doubts. Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation was shot in cinemascope so it really does need to be seen in the proper aspect ratio. I can’t believe it wasn’t till I was in my thirties that I finally saw Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation this way. It still brings back a lot of fond memories for me; it’s a personal “classic”.