The family summer road trip is a time-honored American tradition, bringing back memories of loading up the luggage, piling into the car, and hitting the road for a trek across the country. While the Griswold family makes plenty of memories in the classic road trip comedy “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” unfortunately, none of those memories are good ones. They experience just about every possible vacation mishap, turning what was supposed to be a fun family bonding time into a nightmare.
“National Lampoon’s Vacation” was released in 1983 and has since become a cult favorite, spawning numerous sequels. It’s the second film on my movie bucket list blogging project and marks quite a shift from last week’s film (Quentin Tarantino’s gritty crime thriller “Reservoir Dogs”). 😉 Also, there will be some spoilers discussed in the blog, so if you haven’t seen the movie, I don’t want to ruin the best jokes.
Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is convinced he has planned the perfect family vacation: a trip to “Walley World,” a Disneyland-esque amusement park in California. His wife thinks it would be simpler to fly to California, but Clark insists on driving, believing a road trip will be a better experience for their two children.
However, right from the start things don’t go as planned for the Griswold family. A mix-up at the car dealership results in Clark having to buy what may be the world’s tackiest station wagon to drive the family to California. After a stop at the home of his wife’s dysfunctional relatives, Clark leads the family into one disaster after another.
The car is, at various points, painted with graffiti, burglarized and wrecked (thanks to Clark’s poor driving skills). Clark ties the family dog Dinky to the rear bumper of the car, and then forgets about the dog and drives off. He (disastrously) tries to flirt with a young blonde driving a red sports car, who shows up throughout the family’s road trip. Then, to top everything off, once the family arrives at Walley World, they discover the park has been closed for repairs. Clark has a complete breakdown and forces a security guard, at gunpoint, to operate the rides for the family.
“Vacation” is consistently funny throughout its run time, thanks to the work of its star, Chevy Chase. Chase is perfect as the overly-eager (and increasingly delusional) Clark Griswold. His quest to get the family to Walley World causes him to make progressively worse decisions. Another one of the film’s best characters is the feisty Aunt Edna (Imogene Coca), whom the family is supposed to drop off in Arizona along the way. Aunt Edna ends up dying in the back seat of the car but no one in the family notices. When they finally do realize she’s dead, Clark refuses to stop the vacation. and so they strap Aunt Edna to the roof of the station wagon and keep going. It is, of course, a terrible thing to do, but yes, it’s impossible not to laugh. John Candy also is great in a small role as the security guard Clark holds hostage at Walley World.
Comedies don’t always seem to age as well as other films, but I found “Vacation” to still be very funny. It’s not as sharp a satire as some of Mel Brooks’ best films, though Walley World is quite obviously a send-up of the whole Disneyland mystique. It’s also easy to see “Vacation’s” influence on the comedies that came after it. It’s a fun cult classic that is perfect if you just want to sit back and enjoy a movie that most definitely does not take itself too seriously.