(National Lampoon’s) Vacation (1983)
Genre: Spoof/Dark Comedy
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.
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?
Clark: DON’T TOUCH!
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.