The road trip comedy looks pristine as ever now that National Lampoon’s Vacation is taking the “Holiday Road” to 4K Ultra HD.
The film’s arrival on 4K UHD comes as the comedy is about to mark its 40th anniversary. Obviously, the studio has another reason to give it the upgrade: Warner Bros.’ 100th anniversary. As Warner Bros. celebrates every story, they could have at least included some sort of 40th anniversary marking somewhere on the disc.
Vacation and Xmas Vacation are among the comedies that I generally turn to during bouts of depression. They’re dependable because of their consistent gags that lead to laughs. I’ll also add the Home Alone movies into the mix when I’m trying to bounce out of a funk. It really speaks to John Hughes’ ability to write comedy. These films have no shortage of gags and sometimes, you just want to laugh. It’s better to watch comedies in a communal setting because the laughter is contagious. But even when I rewatched the other day, I was still laughing plenty of times. When a comedy is that good, it does not matter how many people are around.
As the Griswold family leaves their Chicago home for Wally World in California, just about anything that can go wrong does go wrong. Much like our good friends in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, they just can’t catch a break. The thing about this film is that there are plenty of laughs. There’s also a major case of trespassing but Roy Walley opts not to file charges.
Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is old-fashioned as prefers to drive. Had his wife, Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), had her way, they would have flown. With no internet internet in the 1980s, they had no idea that America’s Favorite Family Fun Park, Walley World, would be closed for two weeks of repairs. It just adds to the comedy of it all. Sorry folks, park’s closed. The moose should have told you out front! The moose did but Clark doesn’t care. He’s already lost it with everything the Griswold family has gone through during their cross-country trek. All the mishaps happening to the Griswolds does not include the woman (Christie Brinkley) driving the red Ferrari 308 GTS.
Their stop in Coolidge, Kansas introduces us to Ellen’s cousin, Catherine (Miriam Flynn) and her husband, Eddie, (Randy Quaid), will who forever be known as Cousin Eddie. We’ll see them throughout the rest of the franchise. While the parents will age throughout the franchise, they’ll replace the children with different actors. Rather than bring one of them back for the recent Vacation reboot/sequel, they bring in a new actor. The trend continues! Anyway, this visit means driving Aunt Edna (Imogene Coca) to Arizona. Clark and Aunt Edna clearly do not like each other. Unfortunately, he mistakenly kills her dog, Dinky, when he forgets to untie the leash. It leads to a motorcycle cop pulling them over. The cop accepts Clark’s apology but there is no excuse for killing the dog! If this is not bad enough, Ellen loses her credit cards.
John Hughes bases his screenplay on his previous National Lampoon short story, “Vacation ’58.” Hughes was also one of the greatest writers of his generation. He knew how to write comedy and Harold Ramis certainly knew how to direct it. Chevy Chase might not have been the easiest actor to work with but it all comes together in this film. Imogene Coca stills the show as Aunt Edna but I wouldn’t expect anything less. I didn’t really know of her previous work with Sid Caesar until discovering Your Show of Shows in 2003. As a result, my appreciation for her work in this film has also grown with time.
One wonders if Jeff Katzenberg has any regrets and letting the Vacation franchise out of his hands. There’s a universe where Katzenberg says yes to Matty Simmons and the film ends up at Paramount Pictures. Instead, it ends up at Warner Bros. where the rest is Hollywood history. European Vacation. Xmas Vacation. Vegas Vacation. The recent Vacation sequel/reboot in 2015 is probably the end of the franchise as we know it.
The bonus features are light and only include the commentary. The 1983 included an A&E documentary but it’s not included here. Did Warner Bros. lose the licensing? Regardless, one would think that one of the funniest comedies should include more bonus features. Oh, well.
National Lampoon’s Vacation is consistently funny with no shortage of gags during the road trip.
- Commentary with Harold Ramis, Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid, Matty Simmons, Anthony Michael Hall, and Dana Barron
DIRECTOR: Harold Ramis
SCREENWRITER: John Hughes
CAST: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Imogene Coca, Randy Quaid, John Candy, introducing Christie Brinkley, Anthony Michael Hall, Dana Barron
Warner Bros. released National Lampoon’s Vacation in theaters on July 29, 1983. Grade: 4/5
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