As a member of the "Holy Trinity" of Chevy Chase films (alongside Caddyshack and Fletch), National Lampoon's Vacation represents Chevy Chase at his all-around cinematic best. Of all the films listed on Chase's résumé, there is none other that encapsulates what makes Chase one of the best comedic talents of his era. To wit: for as much as I positively worship at the feet of Caddyshack, the film is basically a "Clash of the Titans" between Rodney Dangerfield's sarcastic, acerbic one-liners and the brilliant, seething slow-burn of the late, great Ted Knight. Fletch is a comedy classic, and Chase is almost pitch-perfect throughout the film, but his funnyman antics, physical comedy, piercing impersonations, and throwaway glibness seem slightly out-of-place when juxtaposed with the film's rather serious narrative.
So what makes National Lampoon's
Vacation the quintessential
So National Lampoon's Vacation benefits
from featuring both a writer and director who collectively have been
responsible for some of the funniest, heavily referenced, and most-beloved
comedies of the last twenty-five years. Plus it sports a strong supporting cast,
featuring SCTV-vets Eugene Levy and John Candy, the brilliant television legend
and comedienne Imogene Coca as the ghastly Aunt Edna, and other talented
performers such as Randy Quaid, Brian Doyle-Murray, James Keach, future Miami
Vicer John Diehl and future Ally McBeal cast member Jane Krakowski as the
Daddy-frenching Cousin Vicki. And as the Griswold family, Anthony Michael-Hall
and Dana Barron are the first (and best) pairing of Rusty and Audrey Griswold
(each successive sequel would feature a new set of siblings, each worse than the
last, and never as good as these
two), while the voluptuously yummy Beverly D'Angelo remains the hottest Mom on
the planet. OK, while she does look
beautiful from pretty much every angle, she also gives a great performance as
Ellen Griswold; she really looks, acts, and sounds like a mother at every
moment. As the steady, sensible (if occasionally irascible) mother, Ellen is the
perfect foil and counterpoint to husband
All of which brings us to
In other words, he's pretty much like almost every loving
father in existence... and that's what makes it so magical when
National Lampoon's Vacation is a truly funny movie that touches on all that makes the
concept of immediate family so unique and wonderful in the
cosmos without ever getting mawkish about the entire deal. Twenty years after the film
first graced theaters, it still holds up as both a comedic
classic as well as a great family film (with a liberal amount of
profanity, nudity, drugs, and the single greatest incest joke ever uttered on film.) Vacation
spawned three sequels, each more horrible than the last (including the
utterly over-praised Christmas Vacation, a film with
a following of whom I will never understand), but for fans of the original
classic, Warner's new 20th Anniversary DVD is pure platinum.
More interesting is the Griswold Family Commentary, featuring director
Harold Ramis, producer Matty Simmons, stars
The Family Truckster Interactive Feature is a bizarre little extra. By using your remote to highlight a specific section of the Family Truckster, you can view a short clip detailing a member of the Griswold family or one of the supporting characters. For example, if you select the luggage rack, you can view a minute-and-a-half of Aunt Edna highlights. Select the fender and you can watch Dana "Audrey" Barron explain why she was never in any of the sequels. The windshield gives you access to the Truckster Family Radio, showing five clips of the Griswold family singing in the Family Truckster ("Mockingbird", "Love For Sale", "The Wallyworld National Anthem", etc.) The Christy Brinkley montage is worth the price of admission alone.
Rounding out the supplements are the Theatrical Trailer and biographies of the Cast and Crew. Overall, while the extras are fine in and of themselves, I am disappointed by only one omission: the commentary track contains a thorough discussion of the film's original ending. That first ending, which was completely filmed, did not test well with audiences, and was subsequently reshot using the familiar second ending, which tested through the roof and remained in the film. That original ending should have been included here! Alas...
Revisiting National Lampoon's Vacation brings back a ton of memories. I was twelve years old when I saw this in theaters, and I saw my Dad in every single frame. Twenty years later, I see him even more! Vacation was a staple of HBO for years, moving on to the Turner channels where it has been a mainstay ever since. Watching the film on the 20th Anniversary DVD is almost like watching it again for the first time. The picture is remarkably sharp and vibrant, and the anamorphic widescreen presentation along with the uncut, unedited dialog give the movie a freshness that is very palpable. I've seen Vacation roughly 803,284 times in the last twenty years, and this DVD is the most fun I've had watching it since the first time.
There are so many classic lines, funny moments, and hilarious scenarios to mention. If you're a Vacation fan, the decision to purchase the 20th Anniversary DVD is a no-brainer. You simply must have it. If you've never seen the movie, or perhaps if you've only been exposed to the sub-par (and often substandard) sequels, the DVD also comes highly recommended. It's relatively inexpensive as far as DVDs go, and you are definitely getting your money's worth. For hardcore, longtime fans of the film, the commentary alone makes this DVD a must-buy. For the sexist pig reading this review, the DVD is even worth it just to see how amazingly hot Dana Barron has become, or how amazingly hot Christie Brinkley still is. Of course, Beverly D'Angelo's participation is missing from the DVD, which is too bad. As she played one of the greatest movie moms ever, repeating the role in three sequels, I would have loved to have listened to her thoughts on the project. Nonetheless, the National Lampoon's Vacation DVD is definitely a metallic pea Wagon Queen Family Truckster's worth of joy. Highly recommended!