'EuroTrip': The Odd Art Form Of Doing Stupid In A Clever Way
"Frommer's travel tip" nr. 1: When setting out on a dumb journey, it doesn't mean you can't be clever about it.
Back in the mid '00s, one of our middle school teachers decided to show us a movie for the last class of semester. Clearly well intentioned and looking for something youth oriented and educational, she had found a movie called EuroTrip. Safe to say, that much like Scotty in the film, she didn’t know. And, as pop punk Matt Damon cameo jumped on stage to sing about what it was exactly that Scotty didn’t know about, it was kind of too late to do anything about this little romp across a highly caricatured Europe we were about to take. It was dumb, it was fun and shameless almost to a point of being strangely endearing. It was — for (or despite of) all intents and purposes — an oddly perfect moment in time.
Now, since then, watching EuroTrip has become a bit of a yearly tradition for me. However, for a long time, I didn’t really look at it as anything other than a nostalgic quilty pleasure. Until, I started thinking: maybe there's something more to a movie with that much sheer replay value? So, watching it with this newfound curiosity, I of course still had to concede that it is indeed a pretty stupid movie. Yet, I never really appreciated how clever it is, while being it. So, I figured why not explore how it pulls it off.
The Leads: Not Quite The Typical Stereotypes
When it comes to that kind of teen comedies, it's fair to say that having your leads be at least a little bit of stereotypes is kind of a functional need. It’s an effective way to give your audience an instant sense of familiarity with them and, thus, a chance to simply get on with it. And, well, EuroTrip is no different, with each of the well matched four leads stemming from some of the more overused archetypes found in these movies. However, where it does distinguish itself from many of its peers, is that there does seem to be bigger than usual appreciation for these characters both as individuals and as a group.
Now, on individual level, it’s simply apparent in the way each of the actors has been given the room to make these stereotypes their own characters. Starting with Scotty (Scott Mechlowicz), he obviously represents the classic lead of such comedies: little down on his luck, generally the straight man to more quirkier characters around him and likeable enough to carry his own simple ark. However, while Mechlowicz does deliver in these aspects, it never feels confined to just filling this trope. Yes, his pathetic moments are hilarious, but not to a point of trying too hard. And, while he usually is indeed the straight man to someone like say, Cooper, he also seamlessly ends up shouldering some of the films oddest moments like the robot fight or his “hash brownie” meltdown.
Speaking of Coop (Jacob Pitts), he's obviously based on the rambunctious best friend trope: usually there for the lead to play off, these characters are often aggressively one note even by such comedies' standards, yet also tend to steal the show by sheer bravado. And, well, while Pitts does embody this function quite effortlessly, he also pulls something similar to what Matt LeBlanc pulled with Joey in Friends by giving this aggressively one note character a sense sincerity and likeability that one can’t help but to feel wasn't quite even in the script.
Moving on to the first 50% of "the worst twins ever" is Jenny (Michelle Trachtenberg) representing the girl next door trope: often the only girl in the group to even out a predominantly male cast. Yet, while the film uses the fact that she’ “a girl” to a great comedic effect at times, it never feels like she’s just “the girl”, as Trachtenberg makes the character her own. Yes, she has these stereotypically girly romantic fantasies about a trip to Europe and is probably the one most annoyed with Cooper. Yet, she’s also effortlessly “one of the guys” (even to a point of being treated a little too much as one of the guys for her liking) and the moments, when it’s revealed that she also has a dirty side, it feels natural and never comes across like it’s supposed to be some good girl gone bad punchline moment or something like that.
As for the other 50%, last but not least, is Jamie (Travis Wester) filling to geek trope: the character, who is often intellectually the smartest, yet socially most awkward and on the receiving end of most of the jokes. And, well, while these elements are served for a great comedic effect, Wester also gives him dignity and heart, so he never becomes a joke himself, as the movie finds a perfect balance with making fun of him, while also showing how cool he is in his own way.
On a group level, they really just genuinely do come across as friends and the movie does a brilliant job in capitalizing on this chemistry by making sure they get to play off each other in every single combination possible (as all have their own special dynamic with each of the other three). Additionally, with the chain only being as strong as its weakest link, it's also nice to see that each of them is given their moments to shine. In fact, part of the film's humor actually comes from these small moments of perfect comedic delivery from the leads that, on paper, shouldn't have even been that funny. Speaking of not being that funny on paper. ..
The Humor: Craftily Shameless and Cleverly Stupid
So, while the lead characters are actually quite grounded all things considered, what’s going on around them is shameless, vulgar and often absurd even by raunchy teen comedy standards. Yet, when looking at it on the whole, it’s surprising how relatively little it relies on gross out gags and low brow humor and how much it relies on genuine situational comedy with pitch perfect timing, delivery, expertly developed running jokes with great payoffs and inspired little subversions of expectations (along with some genuinely brilliant editing). In other words, it’s a movie that is utterly comfortable with it’s own stupidity, but also sees no reason why it still shouldn’t apply genuine craft and dedication to itself.
Something, which are perhaps best exemplified in the “football hooligans” (Manchester United of course) and the train creep scenes ("Mi Scusi"). Now, on paper, the comedic potential of both of these sequences seems to be questionable at best. Yet, they are executed with such a gleeful passion and disregard to this fact, that they somehow end up feeling kind of inspired (this admittedly also having a lot to do with the sheer brilliance of Vinnie Jones and Fred Armisen respectively). In fact, the same could be said about the entire off the walls caricature of Europe the film paints. Yes, it’s out there but it’s also so cartoonishly out there, that one could almost view it as a clever satire on the way Hollywood stereotypically depicts Europe.
The Cutting Room Floor: Show of Intent
Interestingly enough, EuroTrip's dedication to actually being a good movie despite itself is not only found by exploring what's in the film, but also what was left out. Now, on a more obvious note, watching these deleted scenes simply reveals how important it was for the creators to give the film its objectively excellent pace. A few of them are quite good and totally in line the overall humor. Just not with the pace the film was looking for.
More unexpectedly though, there are also some surprisingly character focused scenes like the one fleshing out Cooper’s and Jenny’s dynamic or a complete alternate ending, where the whole incentive of this trip — Mieke (Jessica Boehrs) — actually turns Scotty down, as the two end up having a genuinely well written and mature conversation about it.
Now, again, it makes sense that a scene like that got cut, as it would have taken away from the film's effortless and silly energy. However, the fact that it was even written and filmed in the first place, further confirms the underlying intent and care that went into this movie despite its silliness. In fact, even with the more stereotypical ending we got, the film still makes a clear point to establish that Scotty isn't chasing some kind of sexual fantasy around Europe, but rather, a person with whom he had built up an actual connection and friendship with (before messing it up of course so that the movie could happen).
To Sum Up
So, taking the nostalgia goggles off for a second, would I still be here rambling about this apparently being something of underrated gem if my teacher had done just a little bit more research on her choice for the end of semester film all these years ago? Well, honestly, I don’t really care. All that matters is that this movie clearly did.