NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION – Film Review

Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) decides to embark on a cross-country expedition from Chicago to an LA amusement park with his family. Their vacation turns into a nightmare when they encounter several hurdles.

It may be hard to believe, but this week, Harold Ramis’ National Lampoon’s Vacation celebrates its 37th anniversary. Even though I wasn’t alive when the movie was released in theatres, it’s still hard to believe and it makes me incredibly nostalgic too. I basically grew up watching Vacation. Seriously. I can’t remember an exact age, but the first time I saw this movie was when I was extremely young. Maybe seven or eight years old. Is it the most appropriate film for a young child to watch? Not really. But I watched it anyway and loved every single second of it.

Since I loved it so much on my initial viewing, I watched it numerous times over throughout the years. The Vacation movies are somewhat of a tradition in my family. Every summer we watch this film at some point, and about two weeks before Christmas Day, we all gather around to watch Christmas Vacation, which is our personal favorite in the long-running series. That being said though, Vacation is without a doubt my favorite road trip film of all time. There are plenty of great ones, and I’ll admit, Planes, Trains and Automobiles does come quite close, but there is just something so oddly endearing about watching Clark Griswold and his family embark on the most mishap-filled vacation of their lives.

Rewatching this film today made me feel as if I were a kid again. What made this rewatch all the more special is that I watched it together with my mom and dad, just like how I grew up watching it countless times over growing up. Despite the fact that we have probably seen the movie about fifty times (no exaggeration), we still laughed so hard our stomachs hurt.

Randy Quaid (left) as Cousin Eddie and Chevy Chase (right) as Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983).

We all know that John Hughes was one of the most legendary and influential filmmakers of the eighties, but I sometimes feel as though he doesn’t get enough credit for his absolutely hilarious screenplay here. Mostly everybody adores The Breakfast Club and the aforementioned Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but I think that his script for Vacation is without a doubt his most impressive and most comedic as well. This film has a total running time of ninety-eight minutes which is fairly standard for comedies. Sometimes though, a comedy can feel as if it outstays its welcome and there becomes a point in which the jokes just aren’t landing anymore. But not with Vacation. Every little mishap that happens on the Griswold’s adventure is sure to make you laugh and will keep you entertained all the way up to the closing credits.

Vacation holds some of the most outrageously funny moments in cinematic history. As I said, I have seen this movie probably fifty times or more. I knew every single thing that was going to happen in the movie, yet I still laughed as though I had just seen it for the very first time. That’s because the script is so timeless and the jokes are still just as funny as they were more than thirty years ago.

One of the greatest moments in the film is when Clark sees a woman he finds to be attractive and wants to impress her so he starts dancing while he is holding a sandwich that he’s about to eat. He takes a big bite only to be told by his wife Ellen that the family dog had peed all over the sandwiches which makes Clark spit the whole thing on the ground. There’s also the moment where Clark punches the Wally World moose mascot right in the nose or the scene in which the Wagon Queen Family Truckster goes airborne fifty miles in the desert.

But one scene that I have always found to be hilarious seems to be one that not a lot of people take notice of. In one of the earliest scenes in the film, Clark and Ellen are discussing their exciting trip to Walley World while they are doing dishes. A hilarious little tidbit that can be hard to spot is that Clark never actually cleans the dishes before putting them back in the cupboard. Ellen hands Clark dishes to wash, but instead of washing them, he simply takes a rag and rubs it on the cutlery and plates for a few seconds and just puts them away. It’s a small moment but it’s so funny. Once you notice it, you’ll be sure to appreciate the scene and the film as a whole even more.

This is just one of the most feel-good comedies ever made. It’s the definition of a perfect summer road-trip movie that will always stand the test of time. I honestly can’t see this film being boring or outdated in the future. This Griswold family adventure will forever remain a staple in the comedy genre, even thirty more years from now.

National Lampoon’s Vacation is an outrageously hilarious road-trip comedy filled with tons of heart and goofy moments, making it a true comedy classic.

Overall Grade: A+

MPAA Rating: R

Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Imogene Coca, Randy Quaid, John Candy, Christie Brinkley, Anthony Michael Hall, Dana Barron, Miriam Flynn, Eddie Bracken, Brian Doyle-Murray, James Keach, Eugene Levy, Frank McRae, Jane Krakowski, John P. Navin Jr.

Directed by: Harold Ramis

Distributed by: Warner Bros.

Release Date: July 29, 1983

Running Time: 98 minutes

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