National Lampoon's Vacation Movie Review

OK, when's the last time you saw National Lampoon's Vacation? No, I mean the real Vacation -- the one after with all the profanity and nudity in it? Thought so.

To re-experience Vacation properly (or experience it for the first time) run, don't walk, to get the DVD of the film, a comedy that's every bit as enjoyable today as it was 20 years ago. (Yes, it's been that long.)

As movie character archetype, Chevy Chase's Clark W. Griswold almost needs no introduction. Overworked but in love with his family (and the family lifestyle he's only read about in The Saturday Evening Post, probably), Clark takes his wife (Beverly D'Angelo) and kids (Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron) on a road trip from Chicago to Los Angeles. Their destination: Walley World, a moose-inspired theme park strangely reminiscent of another animal's magic kingdom.

In a formula that would inspire multiple sequels and countless imitations, everything that can go wrong does. It starts at the beginning, when Clark is sold a lemon of a stationwagon, then progresses to a totally wrecked car, a dead relative (and dog), and an eventual arrival at Walley World... only to discover it's closed for two weeks. And the fun continues from there, as Clark just about loses his mind.

Chase has made some real dogs in his time, but Vacation ain't one of them. Clark is alternately an idiot and an idiot savant. He gets the family into deep deep trouble, only to redeem himself through a miracle of logic or just dumb luck. It's obvious why Ellen (D'Angelo) stays with him: He's fun and has a knack for ending up on top, or at least no worse for the wear. And he obviously loves his family to death.

To say more would be to rob Vacation of its magic. On the new 20th anniversary DVD, the film is every bit as fun as you remember -- more fun, actually, because it's uncensored -- and adds a cool commentary track from director Harold Ramis and most of the Griswold clan. Give it a listen so next time the film comes on Comedy Central you can be the know-it-all in the group, outdoing even Clark himself.

Highly recommended.


National Lampoon's Vacation Rating

" Extraordinary "

Rating: R, 1983


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