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Friday Film Review: (National Lampoon’s) Vacation

(National Lampoon’s) Vacation (1983)
Genre: Spoof/Dark Comedy
Grade: B

Back in 1983, a friend and I had nothing better to do one Saturday than catch some movies. We chose “Krull” and “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” You can see which movie I’ve chosen to review.

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When Clark W. Griswold (Chevy Chase) decides to take his family on a cross country trip from Chicago to California in order to visit the Walley World Family Fun Park, no one has a clue what they’re in store for. Ellen Griswold (Beverly D’Angelo) questions the long drive but Clark is determined to spend time with his family Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) and Audrey (Dana Barron). And after all, getting there is half the fun. Or is it?

This film is totally un-PC with sophomoric humor that weaves over the line of offensive at times but it’s a guilty pleasure of mine and I still laugh myself to hysteria whenever I watch it. I’d be willing to bet that anyone who’s ever been on a long vacation drive will identify with something that happens to the Griswolds along the way. Well, perhaps not the last bit with Aunt Edna and hopefully not the end of Dinky but certainly with the smell from the back seat, visiting ghastly family along the way, listening to your parent’s favorite songs, getting lost, dumpy hotels and theme motels, touristy kitschy crap, lost credit cards and overpriced everything. At least Clark isn’t like some males I’ve known who vow that “we’re only stopping for gasoline so hold it til then!”

Chevy Chase *is* Clark Griswold – the overworked father who never gets time to spend with his children and consequently goes overboard on the annual 2 week vacation. Beverly D’Angelo plays the straight woman to Chevy’s funny man but manages to make me laugh just as hard while Hall and Barron bicker as much as any two siblings trapped in the back seat of a car usually do. Imogene Coca, Randy Quaid, James Ketch, John Candy and Eddie Bracken are among the stars making fabulous appearances in the film while Christie Brinkley looks nice even if she can’t deliver a line to save her life.

And the quotes! I could go on and quote half the movie but among the best are: in relation to the horrible station wagon the family travels in
Ed, the car salesman: “You think you hate it now, but wait ’til you drive it.”
Clark Griswold: “Ed, I’m not your average everyday fool.”

Audrey Griswold: She breathed on me! A dead person breathed on me!

Clark: O God, ease our suffering in this, our moment of great despair. Yea, admit this kind and decent woman into thy arms of thine heavenly area, up there. And Moab, he lay us upon the band of the Canaanites, and yea, though the Hindus speak of karma, I implore you: give her a break.
Ellen Griswold: Clark…
Clark: Honey, I’m not an ordained minister; I’m doing my best.

and of course Clark’s moment of snapping

Clark: I think you’re all fucked in the head. We’re ten hours from the fucking fun park and you want to bail out. Well I’ll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. I’m gonna have fun and you’re gonna have fun. We’re all gonna have so much fucking fun we’ll need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles. You’ll be whistling ‘Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah’ out of your assholes! I gotta be crazy! I’m on a pilgrimage to see a moose. Praise Marty Moose! Holy Shit!
Rusty Griswold: [Grab’s Clark’s shoulder] Dad, you want an Aspirin?

I use the “It’s a quest.” and “Don’t touch!” lines myself.

If you’ve never seen the movie, or even if you have, be sure to check out the 20th Anniversary edition with commentary by director Harold Ramis, Chase, Barron, Quaid, and Hall. They deliver lots of laughs and trivia about the filming. This is a National Lampoon film and I’ll be the first to admit that John Hughes’ script will offend but it’s also equal opportunity offensive and from an era before socially conscious PC-ism. All in all, I think it holds up fairly well for an almost 30 year old 80s comedy so sit back, grab the bowl of popcorn and enjoy Clark’s white leather loafers complete with gold chains.


Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. Sandy James
    Aug 27, 2010 @ 05:20:17

    My family quotes this movie all the time as well! “Poor little guy. Probably kept up for the first mile or so…” :D We also called the family mini-van the “family truckster,” but it’s wasn’t “metallic pee.” More of a “barf brown.” Super choice, Jayne!!

  2. Jayne
    Aug 27, 2010 @ 05:25:10

    @Sandy James: That metallic pee green was atrocious. But somehow I don’t think the Arctic (or is it Antarctic?) Blue one would have looked much better!

  3. Christine M.
    Aug 27, 2010 @ 07:35:10

    I haven’t seen this one but I watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation at least once a year. =)

  4. Jayne
    Aug 27, 2010 @ 08:09:12

    @Christine M.: If you like the Christmas one, you owe it to yourself to check out the one that started the whole series.

  5. Christine M.
    Aug 27, 2010 @ 08:56:44

    @Jayne: I will! Actually I catch Christmas Vacations (in French it’s called “Le sapin a des boules/The Christmas tree has boobs” [boules de Noel–>Christmas tree ornaments]) on the telly around the holidays every year and I since I mostly watched it in French (can’t help it, it was on way too often when I was a kid and I didn’t know English back then) I never knew it was part of a series until a couple of years ago (there’s no hint in the title that this is part of a series).

  6. Cherrie Lynn
    Aug 27, 2010 @ 09:09:39

    I love this movie so much! I always call hubby “Clark” when he’s doing or about to do something particularly idiotic. And cousin Eddie is a favorite. “I don’t know why they call this stuff Hamburger Helper. It does just fine by itself.” It’s a classic, practically required viewing if you’re going to hang around our house. :)

  7. Jayne
    Aug 27, 2010 @ 11:33:10

    @Christine M.: LOL, I love that title in French. Christmas tree boobs! It just sounds like Clark Griswold.

  8. Jayne
    Aug 27, 2010 @ 11:37:06

    @Cherrie Lynn: “I like it better than tuna helper myself, don’t you, Clark?”
    Clark: “You’re the gourmet around here, Eddie.”

  9. DS
    Aug 27, 2010 @ 12:57:48

    This movie always cracks me up. I usually think of it as a collection of urban legends hilariously woven together. The Boris Vallejo poster was also perfect.

  10. Chicklet
    Aug 27, 2010 @ 13:46:35

    My parents and I quote this movie constantly!

    “Vicky, can I help you with that Kool-Aid… please?”

    “Rusty, stop trying to eat the Family Truckster.”

    “Is that made-up? It sounds made-up.”

    “Aw, f*ck it, you don’t wanna go that way.”

  11. kaitlynkline
    Aug 27, 2010 @ 15:42:00

    Oh gosh, I love these movies! Christmas Vacation is my personal favorite. I could sit there and quote the whole movie. “WHY IS THE CARPET ALL WET, TODD?!” “I don’t knowww, Margo”. I’m dying haha

  12. Gwen Hayes
    Aug 27, 2010 @ 16:14:00

    I loved this movie and Christmas Vacation….the other two don’t have the same heart.

  13. Jayne
    Aug 27, 2010 @ 16:20:49

    @Gwen Hayes: I agree with that. I didn’t get very far with “European Vacation” before I had to turn it off and have never watched the Vegas one. Now there’s supposed to be one with Rusty taking his children on a family trek.

  14. Bonnie Dee
    Aug 27, 2010 @ 17:20:18

    As much as I love and revere Vacation and Christmas, I can’t find much to enjoy in either Vegas or European, both of which I’ve only watched once. However, there is one classic scene in European. The Griswolds drop in unexpectedly on people they believe are their distant German relatives. They chatter away about the family and spend the night and when they leave in the morning, the polite German couple turns to each other “Who was that?” “I have no idea.” Classic!

  15. Angelia Sparrow
    Aug 27, 2010 @ 20:16:58

    I admit, I would have gone with Krull.

    Oh, of course it’s utter nonsense, but it’s pretty to look at. Plus, young Liam Neeson as a polygamist and old people in love.

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