Sunday, July 20, 2014

Movie Review: "National Lampoon's Vacation" (1983)

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Movie"National Lampoon's Vacation"
Director Harold Ramis
Year: 1983
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 38 minutes

Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) wants nothing more than to take his family on the perfect summer vacation: a simple two week road trip in the brand new family station wagon from their home in Chicago to a theme park in Los Angeles, CA called Wally World. Clark insists on driving because he believes "getting there is half the fun" and that it will give him a chance to bond with his kids while they sight-see across the US. But, it would seem this trip is doomed from the beginning and pretty much anything that can go wrong does go wrong. Nothing can get Clark down, though, and he is bound and determined to have a good time no matter what obstetrical the family has to overcome and regardless of the lengths he has to go to in order to overcome them.

It doesn't get much more summery than a family road trip to a theme park, right? This movie oozes summer and is pretty damn funny, to boot. This is the only "Vacation" movie to be rated-R and that just makes it all the more raucous. Chevy Chase is brilliant as Clark Griswold with his subtle sarcastic dialogue combined with his occasional colorful rants. We'd venture to say Griswold is Chase's most notable role throughout his cinematic history. We get to see a young Anthony Michael Hall as Rusty, and he's quite good in this film. It's interesting to note that though Clark and Ellen Griswold stay the same actors (Beverly D'Angelo plays Ellen), the people who play the kids, Rusty and Audrey, change in every film. It's a funny concept to have the actors change, it kind of makes the family seem timeless because the kids aren't actually getting any older. This movie also has a very small cameo from John Candy as a Wally World security guard, Randy Quaid as the always hilarious cousin Eddie, and Christie Brinkley as Clark's fantasy woman in the Ferrari, as well a very young Jane Krakowski as a cousin to Rusty and Audrey.

You really feel for Clark's plight throughout this movie. All he wanted to do was something nice for his family and he gets blocked at every turn. Any of us who have ever been on a road trip with our families know that this is a common occurrence. Maybe it doesn't happen to the degree at which it happens in this film, but no vacation ever goes 100% as planned, even when you don't have kids. Shows and events can get canceled, stuff costs more than you anticipated, hotel amenities not being up to par (or even there at all), flights can get delayed, cars can have trouble, weather might be bad...things completely out of your control always seem to happen when least expected at the most inopportune times. Clark really wanted to just spend some time with his family and give them a memorable experience for them to share with their grand kids...well, if that was his mission, he certainly succeeded!

To us, this movie is so quintessentially summer that we find ourselves looking forward to watching it every year. It's still funny even today.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 95%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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