Chevy Gives Chase Down the Holiday Road
When it comes to that sub genre of family road trip movies, there is one which pretty much sets the benchmark when it comes to making it work and that is Chevy Chase's "National Lampoon's Vacation" or just "Vacation" as it's often known. Although it may set the benchmark for family road trip movies it's by no means a great movie, in fact it suffers from one of the main problems that all these road trip movies suffer from and that it is repetitive to the point of becoming boring. But despite this "National Lampoon's Vacation" is still fun through its quirky and exaggerated comical look at the trials and tribulations of the American family holiday.
The Griswold's, Clark (Chevy Chase - Caddyshack), Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo) and their children Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall - The Dark Knight) and Audrey (Dana Barron) are looking forwards to their family holiday at Walley World on the West Coast. But first they plan to drive across country taking in the great sites of America has to offer such as The Grand Canyon and The House of Mud. Unfortunately things don't go to plan as one disaster after another befalls the Griswold's and their hideous green station wagon turning their pleasant family holiday into a nightmare of a quest.
There is a very quick way to describe what family road trip movies are about and "National Lampoon's Vacation" is no different, they are about comical mishaps and arguments as a family travel across the country. As such watching "National Lampoon's Vacation" now it's easy to pick up the simple formula which has been imitated by various other family road trip movies such as "RV". We get the initial mishap when getting the vehicle for the trip which sees Clark Griswold being duped into buying a hideous green station wagon by a sly sales man, played by none other than Eugene Levy. Then we get a series of accidents from driving through a dodgy area of town, killing a dog tied to the bumper, driving off an unfinished road and so on.
The thing about "National Lampoon's Vacation" is that despite being routine by being a series of these comical scenes it is funny. When Clark flirts with the attractive woman in the Ferrari it's embarrassingly amusing as his floppy sandwich lacks any style. As is the various attempts to have sex with his wife, which may make it sound rather risque but was almost common place during 80s movies, as was the quick glimpse of nudity when we see a topless Beverly D'Angleo in a shower scene which intentionally mimics "Psycho". It does become repetitive by the time the movie ends but each of these comical scenes sort of work.
Much of what makes it work is down to Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold; he's on fine form throughout "National Lampoon's Vacation" and happily makes a fool of himself without going completely over the top. He's aided by an equally good cast which includes Beverly D'Angelo as his wife Ellen as well as Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron as his children Rusty and Audrey. Plus there is also Imogene Coca who is a hoot as the cantankerous Aunt Edna. But it is Chevy Chase who leads "National Lampoon's Vacation" and manages to make the various jokes which flit between being utterly daft and quite creative work.
What this all boils down to is that "National Lampoon's Vacation" is basically a stereotypical family road trip movie which takes us on a journey of comical disasters just like any other family road trip movie. But with Chevy Chase on fine form it makes all the stupidity work and in a guilty way makes you laugh even though you know it's utterly daft. It does suffer from being repetitive but out of all the family road trip movies and not just those in the "National Lampoon's" series which there are currently 4 of, it's one of the best.