Desperate to spend time with his family, Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) takes his wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), son Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) and daughter Audrey (Dana Barron) and a cross country road trip to the theme park Walley World.
The 80s was a great time for actor Chevy Chase and writer John Hughes. Given the long and storied careers these two would end up with, then of course it is no surprise that when these two collided almost 40 years ago, magic happened. Hughes based the script for National Lampoon’s Vacation on the short story “Vacation ’58” he wrote for an issue of the National Lampoon magazine. Chase, combined with an incredible cast around him and director Harold Ramis behind the camera, creates one of the most memorable films of the decade.
The first thing that makes this movie so entertaining are the actors; every one of the Griswolds is perfectly cast. Chevy Chase as the head of the family, Clark Griswold, never fails to elicit laughs. His deadpan delivery and slapstick comedy are timed perfectly. Beverly D’Angelo as Ellen, the Griswold matriarch, is fantastic opposite Chase; she plays off his comedy well and shines just as bright. The Griswold children, Anthony Michael Hall as the older sibling Rusty and Dana Barron as Audrey, the younger sibling, are just kind of there to go along for the ride. Hall seems to have the more stand-out moments than Barron but they both gel well with Chase and D’Angelo.
Chase, D’Angelo, and the rest of the cast wouldn’t stand out if it wasn’t for the excellent script they had to play with. This film is filled to the brim with wit and humor. I don’t think there was one scene that did not make me laugh, whether it was Clark’s antics or obliviousness, Ellen trying to keep her children and husband in line, or the Griswold children just going along with everything as best they can, there are jokes and gags galore. It gets even better when Randy Quaid as Cousin Eddie shows up, albeit too briefly. Hughes’ script is also very tight. Every scene has a purpose or sets up something that pays off down the line. It also keeps moving; with the amount of jokes and gags in each scene, the film never lingers on any one of them, constantly moving on to the next. This is what makes Chase such a wonderful fit because he expertly navigates from one gag to the next.
But what I really enjoy about this film is how it takes something simple, such as a family vacation, and turns it into a caricature. Something simple like asking for directions or visiting a cousin’s house is exaggerated and portrayed in a ridiculously over-the-top manner. Countless times I found myself laughing and saying to myself “I can relate to that!” The best movies find something for you to connect to, building an emotional bond between you and the film. Vacation finds those emotions and holds on tight, making sure you remember the film long after you’ve finished watching.
I thought National Lampoon’s Vacation was GREAT 😀 Really, what’s not to love in this film? Director Harold Ramis, aka Dr. Egon Spengler, brings writer John Hughes’ script to life with energy and nuance, highlighting the comedic talents of Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo. Randy Quaid is a hoot as Cousin Eddie, who has only a small role in this film but thankfully plays a bigger part later in the franchise. Vacation hits all the right emotional cords with its melodramatic take on the family road trip, drawing you in with its fun and relatable characters and keeping you engaged with Hughes’ trademark humor and heart.
Lasky: Has your father ever killed anyone before?
Rusty: Oh, just a dog. Oh, and my Aunt Edna.
Clark: Hey! You can’t prove that, Rusty.
Cast & Crew
Harold Ramis – Director
John Hughes – Writer
Ralph Burns – Composer
Chevy Chase – Clark Griswold
Beverly D’Angelo – Ellen Griswold
Anthony Michael Hall – Rusty Griswold
Dana Barron – Audrey Griswold
Imogene Coca – Aunt Edna
Randy Quaid – Cousin Eddie
Miriam Flynn – Cousin Catherine
John Navin – Cousin Dale
Jane Krakowski – Cousin Vicki
Christie Brinkley – The Girl in the Ferrari
John Candy – Lasky, Guard at Walleyworld
Eddie Bracken – Roy Walley