NATIONAL LAMPOON’S EUROPEAN VACATION – Film Review

Despite the many adventures they suffered in National Lampoon’s Vacation, the Griswold family decides to take another crack at having fun. This time, the doltish clan heads across the Atlantic for a whirlwind vacation after winning a game show. Will the monuments of Europe survive?

Just this past week, I went ahead and rewatched one of my favorite films of all time, Harold Ramis’ National Lampoon’s Vacation, and published a review on here. It’s without a doubt my absolute favorite road-trip movie and probably my favorite summer movie as well. It brings back so many amazing memories of when I was younger since that is how I grew up watching the film. In my household, it’s a tradition to watch Vacation at least once during the summer and watch Christmas Vacation at least once before Christmas Day.

Strangely enough though, I never really had any fond memories of Vacation‘s sequel, European Vacation. Released just two years after the first film, European Vacation is a different sequel in many regards. For starters, the child cast is completely different. Instead of bringing back Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron, this film’s Rusty and Audrey Griswold are portrayed by Jason Lively and Dana Hill respectively. For another, the film isn’t necessarily a road trip movie like its predecessor, but rather a film where the Griswold family goes to Europe and all of their crazy mishaps occur while they are already there.

Unfortunately, I found myself somewhat disappointed while watching European Vacation today. It isn’t anywhere near as genius or as amusing as the previous installment, but it is still a decently enjoyable comedy with some great jokes every once in a while. The humor here can be somewhat of a mixed bag, with some jokes being absolutely hilarious (including one scene in the first ten minutes that caused me to tear up from laughing so hard) and some being extremely distasteful and uncomfortable.

Beverly D’Angelo (left) as Ellen Griswold and Chevy Chase (right) as Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985).

For the most part, though, the comedy in this script is quite funny and entertaining to watch. You just have to understand before going in that this movie is nowhere near as fluent, fast-paced, or gut-bustingly hilarious as the original. Every once in a while, the film has its moments of greatness and when they happen, it’s hard not to enjoy yourself.

But aside from the humor, my favorite aspect to the entire film was seeing Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo reprise their roles as Clark and Ellen Griswold. These two actors work marvelously with one another and I genuinely cannot see another actor playing them. They embody their characters so perfectly to the point where they genuinely feel like family to me. The moment Clark appeared on screen, a massive smile emerged on my face because it felt like I had just seen an old friend or relative I hadn’t seen in a while.

Another great element to this film is its scenery. Because it is set in Europe, you would naturally expect to see a ton of beautiful locations, and that is exactly what we get here. I think that, while this definitely isn’t the best film in the series, it is definitely one of the best looking.

All of this being said though, the movie does get bogged down every once in a while with some issues. For example – one scene in the first act was so incredibly bizarre, ridiculous, and out of left field, that I was honestly questioning what I was watching. It involves Clark, Ellen, and a video camera. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it.

Sometimes the film goes for over-the-top zaniness and every so often, it doesn’t necessarily work. Gratefully, a lot of the time it does though. European Vacation may not be the most extraordinary sequel to the beloved 1983 comedy classic, but it still perfectly encapsulates the heart, warmth, and hilarity of the Griswold family.

While not as brilliant or as comedic as its predecessor, European Vacation still offers plenty of great moments filled with heart and charm.

Overall Grade: B-

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Dana Hill, Jason Lively, Victor Lanoux, Eric Idle, William Zabka, Gary Owens, John Astin, Malcolm Danare, Jeannette Charles

Directed by: Amy Heckerling

Distributed by: Warner Bros.

Release Date: July 26, 1985

Running Time: 94 minutes

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