NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION (1983)
Tagline: Every summer Chevy Chase takes his family on a little trip. This year he went too far.
(Comedy, Adventure, Road Trip) [R]
Oh, spare me, Clark! I know your brand of family fun. Tomorrow you'll probably kill the desk clerk, hold up a McDonalds, and drive us 1,000 miles out of the way to see the world's largest pile of mud!
In this one, the Griswold family is taking a family vacation across most of the United States to get to a theme park called “Wally World”. Along the way, almost everything imaginable goes hilariously and sometimes not hilariously wrong.
First off I pretty much grew up with this movie. It came out when I was 10 years old. I don’t think I saw the theatrical version till much later, but when it finally came on TV, I probably saw it 30 or 40 times. I have been on a bunch of road trips since this came out and had a lot of crazy road adventures as well. Everything from getting trapped in a blizzard and having to stay at a random hotel, to having a battery die on a dirt road that was basically a scene out of CHILDREN OF THE CORN. I’ve had trips where I had to drive 6 hours from about 8pm to 4am the next morning to make a deadline, I’ve had trips where we were driving around in the middle of the night just trying to find a town that had a hotel where it didn’t look like we were going to get mugged. I also remember trying to find where I was going using actual paper maps. Anyway, I resonate with a lot of the nuttiness of this movie.
Where the humor succeeds it's "fall down on the ground and laugh" funny. There are a few lines in here where Clark Griswold (played by Chevy Chase) has basically a breakdown. I almost died laughing. The interaction between Clark and Ellen (played by Beverly D’Angelo who aside from this series might be the best know for BOUNTY KILLER) is good, but the lines between them and their kids are even better.
When it comes to the movie's shortcomings it’s a lot of the plot lines. Having Clark almost cheat on his wife was extremely tacky. I also wasn’t crazy about the scene referencing where cousin Vicki was learning to kiss with her dad. What the actual hell. Sorry but incest is never funny. When I was a kid I didn’t notice this stuff as much, but now when I watch this, it’s like “how did grown men write these lines and find them funny?” Harold Ramis wrote and directed some great movies, but I found some of his humor points missed not only the mark, but were way the heck out of the stratosphere, and not in a good way.
Regarding the cast and direction, we get a really good movie overall in spite of my few critiques. I do know that Imogene Coca who plays Aunt Edna struggled with some of her lines feeling she was being too mean to the rest of the cast and even had a stroke during filming. That didn’t stop her from continuing acting though. She was in films and TV after this movie for another 14 years. Chevy Chase who plays Clark Griswold also still gets roles to this day in spite of a few weird off-the-set stories that have surfaced over the years. Randy Quaid is great in this as Cousin Eddie for what he was being asked to do. I also really liked both of the kids played by Anthony Michael Hall and Danna Baron. Anthony Michael Hall is actually still acting and Danna Baron actually played Aubrey Griswold again in 2003’s CHRISTMAS VACATION 2: COUSIN EDDIE’S ISLAND ADVENTURE. That actually made her the only actress to play the role of Aubrey more than once in the entire series.
VACATION is one of the quintessential 80’s comedies but by today's standards, it's terribly dated. Overall I have to give this thing a 5 out of 7 though. It wasn’t the best film for me, even in this series. I wish Clark had been a more likable character as well.
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