National Lampoon’s Vacation
Clark Griswold (Chase), wanting to spend more time with wife Ellen (D’Angelo) and children Rusty and Audrey (Hall and Barron), decides to lead the family on a cross-country expedition from Chicago to the Los Angeles amusement park, “Walley World”, billed as “America’s Favorite Family Fun Park”. Although Ellen wants to fly, he insists on driving, so he can bond with his family. In preparation, Clark has ordered a new sports wagon for the trip, but when he finds it is not ready in time for the trip, is forced to take a failing behemoth Wagon Queen Family Truckster.
As the family travels, they have several mishaps, such as being tagged by vandals while in St. Louis, while Clark is tempted several times by a voluptuous young woman (Brinkley) driving a flashy red Ferrari 308 GTS. They stop in Coolidge, Kansas to visit Ellen’s cousin Catherine (Miriam Flynn) and her husband Eddie (Quaid), but this creates more tension among the Griswalds. Catherine and Eddie foist crotchety old Aunt Edna (Coca) and her dog Dinky on the Griswolds, asking them to drop her off at her son Normy’s home in Phoenix. After a failed attempt to enjoy a picnic, Clark forgets to untie Dinky from the car before leaving, killing the dog.
While Ellen and Clark argue, they become stranded in the desert, and Clark eventually finds a mechanic that scams him out of the rest of his cash to fix the car. Frustrated, they stop at the Grand Canyon; when Clark cannot convince a hotel clerk to take a check, he takes cash from the hotel’s cash register but leaves behind the check. Leaving the Canyon, they find that Aunt Edna passed away in her sleep. When they reach Normy’s home, they discover he is out of town, and leave Edna’s rigor mortised body in the backyard.
Despite all the events and the begging of Ellen and the kids, Clark is more determined to get to Walley World. They finally arrive the next day to find the park closed for repairs. Clark, slipping into madness, buys a realistic-looking BB gun and demands a park security guard Russ Lasky (John Candy) to take them through the park; Ellen and kids follow him, attempting to placate their father. Eventually the SWAT team arrives along with park owner Roy Walley (Eddie Bracken). Roy understands Clark’s impassioned epitome of the American Vacation, bringing back memories of his own childhood years ago. Roy does not file charges against the Griswolds, and lets the family enjoy the park as his guests. The credits show various photographs of the Griswolds enjoying the rest of the vacation, including returning to Chicago via plane.
It has been a fortnight since I last saw National Lampoon’s Vacation. When they say “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, though, they aren’t kidding. I remember loving this picture last time I saw it, and now I love it even more!
I’m sure many of us have had the experience of a family vacation, which is the basis of the film’s plot. However, I’m sure none of us have endured the horrors and hilarity that the Griswold’s go through on this trip.
In the late 70s and early 80s, Chevy Chase was one of the funniest people alive, and this served as a vehicle for his comedic talents. On top of the physical comedy that is showcased here, there is some excellent comedic writing. The kind that we just don’t get these days.
Chevy Chase is never going to be known for his acting, but it is his comedic talent that allows this film to really work. Who else could play such a bumbling idiot and get away with it?
Beverly D’Angelo is another in a long list of gorgeous women attached to buffoons that makes the audience scratch their heads wondering how they are married. Her scenes are brief, and she does seem to be a bit of a nag sometimes, but the topless scenes make up for that.
Christie Brinkley was the quintessential dreamgirl of the early 80s, and she really played up that fantasy aspect to perfection as the girl in the red car. Such a shame she disappeared after the pool fiasco, though.
Remember in the 80s when they made R-rated comedies that were funny and not sex farces? Well, that’s what National Lampoon’s Vacation is. A great comedy, ne, film, that is a true classic without having to resort to sexual innuendo to make it work. If you’re one of the few hapless souls out there who haven’t seen this film, then I highly recommend it to you, especially. For everyone else, you can never have too much of a good thing, right?
5 out of 5 stars