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Vacation (1983)

National Lampoons Vacation, American Vacation

Every summer Chevy Chase takes his family on a little trip. This year he went too far.

Directed by:

Harold Ramis

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 98 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United States

When you’re a movie reviewer, there are certain sentences that you use very rarely, if at all. “I wish there’d been more scenes involving Ashton Kutcher” is one of them. “Quentin Tarantino really needs to overcome his fear of violence” is another. Perhaps the most sparingly-used of them all, however, is the short but to-the-point “Chevy Chase is fantastic.” I know that’s one that I’ve certainly never typed out before now – and, had I not been given the chance to review ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation’, I probably never would. Yet, in this early showcase of what 80s movie maestro John Hughes could do with a pen, it’s a sentence that’s strangely true.

Chevy plays the dippy-eyed Clark Griswold, head of a family comprising mum Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), son Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) and daughter Audrey (Dana Barron). It’s holiday time, and they’re determined to have as much enforced fun as possible as they undertake the mammoth drive from their Chicago home to the distinctly Disneyland-esque “Walley World” in California. Sounds simple enough – or at least it will if you’ve never in your life a) seen a road movie or b) spent any lengthy amount of time trapped in a car with your nearest and dearest.

So, of course, everything that can go wrong invariably does, and a whole lot besides. There’s nothing massively surprising here (the ‘National Lampoon’s’ name tagged onto the title effectively promises as much) and, as tends to be the case with road flicks, the general premise often seems little more than an excuse to throw together a procession of tenuously-linked sketches. After all, what more credible way is there for a movie to introduce characters for a joke or two and then dump them, never to be seen or mentioned again, without being criticised for it? There’s little doubting, then, that Hughes would go on to write some considerably sharper, more insightful comedy (‘The Breakfast Club’, ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ and ‘Planes, Trains & Automobiles’ would all come from his typewriter in the years that followed).

Nonetheless, as an out-and-out provoker of chuckles, ‘Vacation’ is an undoubted success. And, to take me back to my original point, it’s largely due to the performance of Mr Chase. His delivery, his reactions to what’s going on around him, and his general demeanour are all spot on. There might be an entire family along for the ride, but make no mistake about it: this is Chevy’s movie.

It's Got: A tough little mutt, a child born without a tongue, and a stack of nudey books THIS high!!

It Needs: An eye to be kept peeled for the many notable cameo appearances, including John Candy, Eugene Levy, Randy Quaid, Brian Doyle-Murray and Christie Brinkley.

DVD Extras A bit like Walley World, the extras on this version are non-existent. Version reviewed: National Lampoons Vacation (20th Anniversary Special Edition) from Amazon.com DVD Extras Rating: 0/10

Alternatives:

Christmas Vacation, European Vacation, Vegas Vacation

Summary

Happy holidays indeed – provided you sit and watch the Griswold’s escapades from the comfort of your own home, and don’t try to go with them.

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