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The Willards from Terre Haute, Indiana, travels abroad for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation in Paris, France. Harry Willard believes that the greatest problem will be avoiding tap water, but bringing his three children will prove to be more troublesome.Written by
[on the beach at Cannes, Harry and Skipper are watching Elliott chat up a pretty French girl, as the girl's mother looks on disapprovingly]
How do you like Elliott's new moustache, Dad?
I think I like the one on the girl's mother better.
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BON VOYAGE (1962) is a curious, mildly entertaining live-action Disney artifact about a typical American family's long awaited trip to France, and an odd attempt at semi-sophisticated comedy from a studio not exactly known for the genre.
In the mom-and-pop leads are the Disney period Fred MacMurray, a long way from DOUBLE INDEMNITY, and the ex-Mrs. Reagan, Jane Wyman, whose dignity manages to hold up better than Fred's. As the two sons we have Disney protégés Kevin "Moochie" Corcoran in a relatively tolerable appearance, and Disney maverick, Tommy Kirk, in a buzz cut that does nothing for him.
For the young love interest daughter Deborah Walley and cynical playboy Michael Callen (Riff in the original stage cast of WEST SIDE STORY) are re-teamed after 1961's GIDGET GOES HAWAIIAN. As Callen's expatriate mother Jessie Royce Landis does her best to bring a touch of giddy sophistication to her Paris soirée sequence.
Around this time they used to say Disney got their live-action performers on the way up (Julie Andrews) or the way down (most of the cast here). It's also somewhat difficult to gage the target audience - adults, teens, family? - because there's not much here to hold a child's interest.
Certainly interesting is the authentic (if brief) footage of vintage ocean liners and their NYC piers (including a comically confused boarding and departure sequence), and location shots of an early '60s Paris.
Most curious sequence: MacMurray meeting what is subtly coded as a Paris street walker, played by the authentically French and rather grave Françoise Prévost, who seems to have inexplicably wandered in from a Godard film. Later she also picks up Kirk, an encounter dad is quick to defuse.
So it's no spoiler to mention that American Family Values triumph at the end in spite of a climactic trip to the decadent French Riviera. On the plus side the film presents a generally positive, even admiring view of French life and culture.
And Bunuel and Dali would surely love the extended sequence in which Fred MacMurray's wiggling finger protrudes from a street level Paris sewer lid.
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