Vegas Vacation Review

Vegas Vacation movie posterSynopsis
When Clark (Chevy Chase) receives a bonus from work, he takes his wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), son Rusty (Ethen Embry), and daughter Audrey (Marisol Nichols) on a family vacation to Las Vegas.

Review
I know that Vegas Vacation, the fourth film in the Vacation franchise, is the most maligned of the series but I have a confession to make: I enjoy it quite a bit. Admittedly, I might be a little bit biased as this was one of the first films I owned on DVD and therefore watched it much more than any other film in the series (except maybe Christmas Vacation). Vegas Vacation is the first film in the Vacation franchise to not carry the National Lampoon moniker, as well as the first not penned by John Hughes. Despite this, Vegas Vacation still packs plenty of laughs and good times.

Early on, it is obvious Hughes was uninvolved with the script because it lacks the heart of the previous films. Also, the script is nowhere near as strong as previous outings. However, Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo remain true to form and carry the film as best they can. Unsurprisingly, some of the best scenes of the film are when Chase and D’Angelo are together. What else can I say that I haven’t said about them in my other reviews? They are simply a fantastic duo.

For a good portion of the film, the Griswolds split up and each explore Las Vegas on their own, giving Chase, D’Angelo, Ethan Embry, and Marisol Nichols plenty of screen time. The strength of each of these four subplots varies but my personal favorites are Embry’s Rusty becoming a high roller despite being underage, and Chase’s Clark going around Las Vegas with Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) trying to regain the money he lost. Although I would be lying if I consider Clark’s portion my favorite parts because Quaid is at his best in the entire series. Quaid has always been one of the highlights of the franchise for me so seeing him in such a central role and rivaling Clark for my favorite character of the film is an impressive feat.

Ellen’s (D’Angello) and Audrey’s (Nichols) subplots don’t feel like they add much to the story. Ellen gets wooed by Wayne Newton which has some laughs but also just feels uncomfortable at times. Meanwhile, Audrey, encouraged by her cousin Vicki (Shae D’lyn), becomes a dancer in a Las Vegas club. Honestly, it’s during these scenes that I just wait patiently for Rusty’s or Clark’s scenes or for the entire group to be together again since they are far more interesting.

I thought Vegas Vacation was GOOD 🙂 It’s far from the best in the series but I still find it highly enjoyable. Chase and D’Angelo are fantastic together as you’ve come to expect over the franchise and the latest round of Rusty and Audrey, Ethan Embry and Marisol Nichols respectively, do fine against their movie parents. And once again, Audrey’s story feels the weakest while Rusty’s is one of the most entertaining of the film. Randy Quaid’s Cousin Eddie continues to be a stand-out supporting character, being the best appearance of him of all the Vacation movies. While it doesn’t close out the franchise with the strength it started with, Vegas Vacation is still an entertaining trip with the Griswolds.

Favorite Quote
Hoover Dam Guide: Welcome everyone. I am your dam guide, Arnie. Now I’m about to take you through a fully functional power plant, so please, no one wander off the dam tour and please take all the dam pictures you want. Now are there any dam questions?
Cousin Eddie: Yeah, where can I get some dam bait?

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Stephen Kessler – Director
Elisa Bell – Story / Screenplay
Bob Ducsay – Story
Joel McNeely – Composer

Chevy Chase – Clark Griswold
Beverly D’Angelo – Ellen Griswold
Ethan Embry – Rusty Griswold
Marisol Nichols – Audrey Griswold
Randy Quaid – Cousin Eddie
Mariiam Flynn – Cousin Catherine
Shae D’lyn – Cousin Vicki
Wayne Newton – Wayne Newton
Wallace Shawn – Marty
Sid Caesar – Old Guy

National Lampoon’s European Vacation Review

National Lampoon's European Vacation movie posterSynopsis
The Griswolds, Clark (Chevy Chase), Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), Rusty (Jason Lively), and Audrey (Dana Hill), take a vacation across Europe.

Review
Sequels are tricky to pull off but comedy sequels are even more so. The audience expects a certain sense of humor but that does not mean that the film can repeat the same jokes. Since the Griswold’s toured much of the United States in the last film, they are sent to Europe this time to give them a new playground to cause havoc in. This setting opens up plenty of new joke and gag possibilities while still maintaining the sense of humor that made Vacation so enjoyable. Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo return with the same fantastic chemistry they had in the previous film. John Hughes once again pens the script, this time with Robert Klane assisting with the screenplay, which highlights Chase’s and D’Angelo’s comedic talents. The two of them together makes the entire franchise so endearing and fun to return to.

The Griswold kids have been recast in this film due to Anthony Micheal Hall’s involvement with Weird Science, another Hughes movie filming around the same time. Jason Lively now plays Rusty and Dana Hill portrays Audrey. Lively does a good job picking up the reins of Rusty from Hall and Hill’s Audrey feels more relevant to the story but they don’t quite fill the shoes of Hall and Dana Barron from Vacation. The story takes place during a two week period and it tries to fit as many locations in as possible. As a result, the movie moves along pretty quickly and with a relatively short run time, around an hour and a half, European Vacation is over before you know it.

I thought National Lampoon’s European Vacation was GOOD 🙂 Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo are yet again the shining stars. Expect much of the same type of humor as the last film but in a new setting. This film hits all the same notes that made Vacation entertaining and lovable but it doesn’t have the same highs and even has lower lows than its predecessor. It’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle twice but European Vacation tries its hardest.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Amy Heckerling – Director
John Hughes – Story / Screenplay
Robert Klane – Screenplay
Charles Fox – Composer

Chevy Chase – Clark Griswold
Beverly D’Angelo – Ellen Griswold
Jason Lively – Rusty Griswold
Dana Hill – Audrey Griswold

National Lampoon’s Vacation Review

National Lampoon's Vacation movie posterSynopsis
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.

Review
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.

Favorite Quote
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.

Trailer

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

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Christmas in July Blogathon 2020

Merry Christmas in July!

The blogathon has had some fantastic guests over the past few days but it is my turn at last. I will be closing out the Christmas in July Blogathon 2020 with the review of the last film I have yet to review on my Fave Five Christmas Movies: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Without further ado, let’s get to it!


National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation movie posterSynopsis
Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) invites his extended family to his home for Christmas.

Review
If you ask someone to name some of their favorite Christmas films, chances are they will have National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on that list and it’s not hard to see why. Penned by John Hughes, who also wrote the first two Vacation films, Christmas Vacation has much of the emotion and humor you would expect from the legendary writer. Filled with as many laughs to match the big heart at the center, Christmas Vacation continues to be a holiday season much-watch for me.

One of the aspects of this movie that always brings me back is how it plays on the dysfunction of the family. While all of the previous films in the series play on this too, Christmas Vacation takes it up a notch. The Griswold household is packed full with both sides of the family so there are plenty of shenanigans abound. With so many characters, every personality imaginable is present, which create some wild interactions. However, this high volume of characters also proves to be a detriment as most of the characters introduced are relegated to the background. Other than names and being told the fact that the two sides don’t get along, little information is given about them and they aren’t developed very much either.

Griswold family patriarch Clark (Chevy Chase) continues to be the lovable goofball we’ve come to expect over the course of the franchise. Hugh’s script once again highlights Chase’s sense of humor and deadpan delivery perfectly. Just as well, Beverly D’Angelo as Ellen Griswold continues to be a magnificent counterpart to Chase. The Griswold kids, Rusty and Audrey, are once again portrayed by a new set of actors in John Galecki and Juliette Lewis respectively. This duo is the weakest of the actors to play the Griswold kids in the franchise so far. Neither have many stand out moments and they end up getting lost in the sea of extra characters who aren’t Clark, Ellen, or cousin Eddie.

Speaking of cousin Eddie, I’m so glad Randy Quaid is back! His presence was sorely missed in European Vacation. He has some of the best moments of the movie, especially towards the end of it. Although he might be more of an oddball than Clark, like Clark, his heart is in the right spot, making him a lovable character.

While I do enjoy the core group of characters, what brings me back to Christmas Vacation time and time again is the film’s heart and honest, albeit exaggerated, look at family holiday gatherings. How many times have you been with your family and everybody was bickering or had that one family member who did everything they could to make everything perfect? Hughes’ script fantastically blends all of these elements together, weaving in so much heart and Christmas spirit that you can’t help but enjoy it.

I thought National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation was GREAT 😀 As a Vacation movie, it has all the comedy and emotional heart you have come to expect from the franchise. But as a Christmas movie is where this film is strongest. Riffing on the craziness and unpredictable nature of family gatherings through Clark Griswolds signature antics, Christmas Vacation remains one of the funniest Christmas movies today.

Favorite Scene

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Jermiah Chechik – Director
John Hughes – Writer
Angelo Badalamenti – Composer

Chevy Chase – Clark Griswold
Beverly D’Angelo – Ellen Griswold
Juliette Lewis – Audrey Griswold
John Galecki – Rusty Griswold
John Randolph – Clark, Sr.
Diane Ladd – Nora
EG Marshall – Art
Doris Roberts – Francis
Randy Quaid – Cousin Eddie Johnson
Miriam Flynn – Cousin Catherine Johnson
Cody Burger – Rocky
Ellen Latzen – Ruby Sue
William Hickey – Lewis
Mae Questel – Bethany
Sam McMurray – Bill
Nicholas Guest – Todd Chester
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Margo Chester
Brian Doyle Murphy – Frank Shirley
Natalija Nogulich – Mrs. Shirley


You might not know the name of my guest to the holiday party but you might recognize her. My guest is Milana Vayntrub, aka Lily the AT&T girl.

Milana Vayntrub

Milana has been on my guest shortlist for a while now but never quite made the cut. Appropriate that she is at the top of my list this year, given that she has recently returned to the role of Lily. Outside of the AT&T commercials, she has done some smaller roles and is currently the voice of Squirrel Girl in the animated television show New Warriors. Milana has also done some wonderful humanitarian work as well. Truly the complete package.

And that was the final entry for the seventh annual Christmas in July Blogathon! The wrap up post will be posted tomorrow, where you can find a list of all the entries from this year, as well as the entire guest list to our holiday party. See you there!

Until next time, cheers!

Movie Quote of the Week – 8/26/16

Movie Quote of the Week banner

Answer to MWL 8/24/16: Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) – National Lampoon’s Vacation

Clark: We’ll find a place to stay for the night and we’ll start fresh in the morning. It’s fine.
Audrey: I don’t want to be in the car anymore. I want to go home! I don’t want to go to Walley World!
Ellen: Clark, under the circumstances, I wouldn’t mind if we just went home. In retrospect, it seems like a pretty bad idea driving out. It’s been one disaster after another.
Rusty: Yeah, it’s been a real drag, Dad. Maybe we can try some other time. Walley World’s overrated anyway.
Ellen: What do you think?
Clark: 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. I’m going to have fun and you’re going to have fun. We’re all going to have so much fucking fun we’ll need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles. You’ll be whistling zippity-doo-da out of your assholes! [Laughs] I have to be crazy. I’m on a pilgrimage to see a moose. Praise Marty Moose. Holy shit.

Thanks for everyone’s submissions and one trip to Walley World to the following people for answering correctly:

Brian (ComicUI)
Jackie

Lightning Review: Caddyshack

Caddyshack movie posterSynopsis
Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe) wants to win the caddy scholarship to help pay for college. To do so, he must win favor of Elihu Smails (Ted Knight), sponsor of the caddy tournament offering the scholarship. Meanwhile, groundskeeper Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) tries to get rid of a gopher destroying the golf course by using any means necessary.

Review
Caddyshack was Harold Ramis’ directorial debut and what a great start to an awesome career. What makes Caddyshack so enjoyable is that it has four comedians, Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, and Bill Murray, each with a unique style, that are pretty much left to their own devices. There is a minor plot about a caddy scholarship tournament, but it merely acts as a mechanism to put these actors in the same film. They don’t share many scenes together, allowing them each time to shine. Michael O’Keefe’s Danny Noonan serves as the common thread between their characters. Murray was my favorite out of the bunch. His actions while trying to rid the golf course of a gopher are psychotic and hysterical. Caddyshack is a great slapstick comedy that hasn’t lost any of it’s charm over the years and still provides plenty of laughs.

Rating
4/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Harold Ramis – Director/Writer
Brian Doyle-Murray – Writer
Douglas Kenney – Writer

Chevy Chase – Ty Webb
Rodney Dangerfield – Al Czervik
Ted Knight – Judge Elihu Smails
Bill Murray – Carl Spackler
Michael O’Keefe – Danny Noonan
Sarah Holcomb – Maggie O’Hooligan
Cindy Morgan – Lacey Underall
Scott Colomby – Tony D’Annunzio