If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium Reviews
The farthest I have ever been out of the United States is Victoria, British Columbia. This was when I lived in Port Angeles back in the mid to late '90s, and going to Victoria for the day was something to do. It cost, at the time, $13 round trip if you walked onto the car ferry. The nearest mall was in Victoria. Still is, I think. At the time, you didn't need much in the way of ID to cross the border, and customs was a breeze. I haven't seen much of anything you can't get to in an easy walk, and I never even actually went to the wax museum, which is right there on the waterfront, but it was still nice. The idea of just deciding to go to a foreign country appealed to me. Heck, during the summer, you could wake up as late as eleven, I think, catch the ferry over, hang out for a few hours, and still be able to get home to the US the same day. But doing Victoria that way was okay, because it was right there and you could come back and explore somewhere else later.
This group of American tourists doesn't have that option. They're World-Wind Vacation Tour #225, a group of eighteen Americans spending a few weeks in Europe. And by "Europe," we pretty much do mean all of it. They get a day in Venice and a day in Rome, for example. Two days in London, I think, but can you really see much of London in two days? The lovely Samantha Perkins (Suzanne Pleshette) is a clothes buyer from Minneapolis who intends to spend her trip in Europe making up her mind if she's going to marry George (Frank Latimore). Edna Ferguson (Peggy Cass) has dragged her husband, Fred (Murray Hamilton) on the trip, and he's dragged their daughter, Shelly (Hilary Thompson). Irma Blakely (Reva Rose) somehow gets on a Banzai Tours bus instead and ends up traveling Europe with a group of Japanese tourists while her husband, Harv (Norman Fell) tries frantically to get her back. Jack Harmon (Michael Constantine) was there in the war, and he is still haunted by the memories of the lovely Gina (Marina Berti).
All of these people have come to Europe for whatever reason, but it really seems as though few of the major characters have come because they want to see Europe. Edna Ferguson, clearly, but Shelly's only along because her father's afraid she'll have sex with her boyfriend if they leave her alone. Which, to be fair, she probably would. There's also a sweet older lady, whose name I missed, who is very clearly enjoying herself immensely. Frankly, though, I don't think you can really see much of Europe in three weeks. Oh, you can see enough so that you can say, you know, "I've been to Luxembourg." In case anyone cares. However, I can't imagine only having a few hours to explore Venice, for example, and it seems they spend an awfully long time at cheese markets and so forth, so they don't even have that. They're doing a lot of touristy things in a lot of different countries in a very little time. Hence title, of course, but it still strikes me as a horrible way to see much of anywhere interesting.
Of course, the movie agrees, and it is pretty strongly implied that, in most cases, these are not the sort of people who would much be intellectually stimulated by examining the works of David at the Louvre. Whip 'em past the [i]Mona Lisa[/i] and back onto the bus seems to be more their speed. Now, one of them (Sandy Baron) probably just should have done a longer tour of Italy, given it's most of why he's there. (Learning a bit of Italian before visiting Italian family would have been favourite, too.) And I can't help wondering if there aren't special tours for people like Jack. He says he's chosen the tour he has because it was supposed to take him through a lot of places he visited during the war. (There's an amusing scene where we counter his description of the Battle of the Bulge with what is obviously a former German soldier's.) Then again, maybe everyone on the bus would be trying to tell each other their war stories and there would be no one to listen. Not that I think that, for example, Mr. Ferguson has any interest whatsoever.
And, believe it or not, there is Ian McShane as Charlie Cartwright, their tour guide. It's not that I don't think of him as having been young exactly. I think it's more that I can never remember how old he is. He's sixty-eight. He's older than my mother. Which actually means that in this movie, he was twenty-seven. The idea of Ian McShane playing, in 1969, someone who's really old enough so that he ought to stop fooling around is a little jarring to me, and it's really not helped when he starts singing and dancing in a square in Rome, or possibly Venice. This is part of his wooing of Suzanne Pleshette. He tells her that he's from a family of buskers, and once he's explained what busking is, he then proceeds to do a little song and dance routine in the hopes that he's been charming and endearing enough to get her into bed. It really, really helps that his looks have changed enough over the last forty years that he doesn't look like Al Swearengen in this movie.
Watch out for a charmingly young Patricia Routledge, a very young Ian McShane and a score of Americans. Funny in places, a very good portrayal of a certain type of American abroad.
Overall, good for a nostalgic evening (although I was born in the '70s, haha).