84. National Lampoon’s Vacation

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Movie: National Lampoon’s Vacation

Release Date: July 29, 1983

Director: Harold Ramis

Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Imogene Coca, Randy Quaid, John Candy, Christie Brinkley.

Tag Lines: “Every summer Chevy Chase takes his family on a little trip. This year he went too far.”

Relevance: The Griswold’s are back on my list of most influential movies of all time (see 126. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation for their first appearance). This time, it’s the original, the one that started it all. ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation’ was a huge box office hit in 1983 and was praised by critics, some calling it one of the best screwball comedies of the 1980’s. It was also very well received at the Ord household.

I was only twelve years old when the movie was initially released and having an R-rating meant that I was restricted from going to the theater to see it. However, once it made its way to HBO, the movie was watched, recorded on a blank VHS tape and re-watched numerous times. My parents were quite liberal with what their children were allowed to watch in the comfort of their house. That was especially true once I hit the age of thirteen, which I am guessing was my age when I saw ‘Vacation’ for the first time. And it was a movie that the entire family sat down and watched together.

My father and I loved silly comedies. In fact, the sillier the better. My sister enjoyed them to some extent but my mother was not a fan at all. She loved a good comedy as well as a good laugh, but if it was deemed “silly” by anyone, she would be very skeptical. Most of the time, when she watched them with us she would roll her eyes, chuckle and say, “It’s so stupid.” So I was surprised when she joined us for the first viewing of ‘Vacation.’ Maybe it was its stars, she loved Beverly D’Angelo and Imogene Coca, maybe she heard good things about it from friends or maybe she thought what the heck, let’s give it a try. Based on her loud guffaws and chortles throughout the film, I am guessing she was glad to have watched it with us.

The movie was a laugh out loud riot from beginning to end and made all of my family members, including my mom, laugh so hard we would start to tear up. There were so many one-liners, slapstick moments and gags throughout to keep us literally rolling on the floor. (I was known to watch movies on the floor in front of the couch when all four of us were in attendance.) I can’t seem to pick a favorite moment in the movie for everyone, but when they showed Imogene Coca’s “dead corpse” with an umbrella on top of the Truckster, my mom laughed for a good solid five minutes. As a thirteen year old boy, I was more a fan of the sexual jokes and innuendos, the nudity and Christie Brinkley, but the dead corpse was good too.

‘National Lampoon’s Vacation’ remained a favorite for my entire family for quite a long time. Let’s just say we wore out that blank VHS tape. The movie was referenced and quoted numerous times by all four of us. The jokes just never got old. They remained funny for me through college and beyond. I have owned the DVD for years and have watched it quite often. Even when it is on television, I will stop and watch the watered down, edited, family friendly version, because even that is a funny film. Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo returned for a few sequels, always with different kids, but only one (‘Christmas Vacation’) even competed with ‘Vacation.’ This is one shining example of the original being the absolute best.

Today’s Thoughts: “I think you’re all fucked in the head. We’re ten hours from the fucking fun park and you want to bail out. Well I’ll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. You’re gonna have fun, and I’m gonna have fun…we’re all gonna have so much fucking fun we’re gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles! You’ll be whistling ‘Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah’ out of your assholes! I must be crazy! I’m on a pilgrimage to see a moose. Praise Marty Moose! Holy Shit!”

I always love watching ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation.’ It is a movie that always makes me smile and laugh. I never tire of those silly jokes, sight gags or Chevy Chase’s overall buffoonery. This character and his performance as Clark W. Griswold is sheer perfection. He made me laugh a lot today when I sat down to watch it yet again.

Harold Ramis’ direction and the entire ensemble cast make this a fun, entertaining nostalgic journey I would take any day of the week. Simply put, it’s just a funny movie. Period. Beverly D’Angelo, Imogene Coca, Randy Quaid, John Candy, Christie Brinkley, Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron are all humorous throughout and all have a scene or two that steal away from Mr. Chase. But make no mistake, this is his vehicle (Truckster pun intended) and he navigates it extremely well.

My one takeaway watching it today was, I really, really miss Amusement parks. Due to 2020 being, well 2020, my tradition of going to at least one amusement park was squashed this year. I instead lived vicariously today through the eyes of Marty Moose and those rides at Wally World. Maybe next year. Until then, maybe I will watch some rollercoaster POV videos on YouTube. Or better yet, I’ll just re-watch this comedy classic that gives us not only laughs galore but amusement park thrills as well.

Ways to Watch: Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, DVD Availability.

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