Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Anthony Michael Hall, Dana Barron, Imogene Coca, Randy Quaid, John Candy, Christie Brinkley, Eugene Levy
Director: Harold Ramis
Relive some of your own dreadful family vacation moments with National Lampoon's comedy classic, "Vacation." Written by 1980s legend John Hughes ("The Breakfast Club," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off") and directed by Harold Ramis ("Caddyshack," "Groundhog Day"), "Vacation" marked our first introduction to the ultimate Every Family, the Griswolds, the fictitious clan that eventually would be featured in three more "Vacation" films. Of course, as is usually the case, none of those sequels matched the appeal of the original, though admittedly 1989's "Christmas Vacation" came close.
Chevy Chase plays the head of the Griswold tribe, Clark, an enthusiastic husband and father who desperately wants to plan the greatest summer vacation for his wife and kids. The destination? Walley World, the country's premier amusement park. The only problem is, the Griswolds live in Chicago and Walley World sits 2,460 miles away in Los Angeles. Yet despite constant pleading from his wife Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo) and his two kids, Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) and Audrey (Dana Barron), Clark decides that instead of flying out to California, he'll pack everybody into his new Wagon Queen Family Truckster for a cross-country expedition. As Clark ominously says to Russ on the eve of the trip, "Getting there is half the fun."
The Griswolds depart the next morning, heading first for St. Louis, with Clark and Ellen up front providing the annoying road songs and Rusty and Audrey in the backseat wearing headphones. Clark's meticulously planned itinerary also calls for stops in Dodge City, Kamp Komfort in Colorado, the Grand Canyon, and maybe even a slight detour to see "the largest free-standing mud dwelling ever built," the House of Mud. A brief stay in Coolidge, Kansas to visit cousins Catherine (Mariam Flynn) and Eddie (Randy Quaid) adds two members to the traveling party, the bitter Aunt Edna (Imogene Coca) and her nasty dog Dinky. Walley World draws closer everyday, but with each passing mile the Griswolds' summer vacation encounters more trouble.
Chase is fantastic as Clark Griswold, playing both husband and father to comedic perfection. His father-son conversations with Rusty are priceless and the chemistry between Chase and his onscreen wife is undeniable. D'Angelo fits nicely into the matriarchal role of Ellen, plus her two short nude scenes add some welcomed eye candy to the film. Then there's Quaid, who gives vivid life to the unrefined cousin Eddie, a memorable character he further develops later in the series. And let's not forget about the flavor that John Candy and a young Christie Brinkley add to the pot. Candy plays Lasky, a goofy Walley World security guard, while the seductive Brinkley plays "The Girl in the Ferrari," a role she revisits in 1997's "Vegas Vacation."
For many, "Vacation" serves as a reflection of their own arduous family trips, complete with bickering kids in the backseat, unending car trouble, wrong turns and failing patience. And in the middle of all the mess stands the husband and father, intent on following his precise schedule down to its slightest detail. We've all been there, to some degree, which explains the immense popularity "Vacation" has enjoyed for two decades. Oh, and having Christie Brinkley cruise around in a red Ferrari doesn't hurt either.
The 20th Anniversary Special Edition release of "Vacation," like most DVDs, has its high and low points. The feature-length Griswold family audio commentary is exceptional, with stars Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid, Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron providing loads of inside information along with director Harold Ramis and producer Matty Simmons. And the "Family Truckster Featurette Gallery" is also enjoyable, with a humorous look at the origins of the hideous Griswold family car and an interview with Christie Brinkley highlighting the segment.
But where are the deleted scenes? And I have to imagine any movie with Chevy Chase would be loaded with hilarious outtakes, yet we don't see any of those either. Most disappointing, though, is the absence of the original "Vacation" ending that's mentioned during the audio commentary. Seems this special edition release would be the perfect way to introduce the film's original ending yet it's simply not included.
In short, this anniversary DVD is worth owning if only for the commentary and the new digital transfer, but there was plenty of material available to make it even better.