National Lampoons Vacation (1983)

This one is a staple of my generation and considered a classic among the alumni of the comedy fraternity. It’s currently doing the rounds on Netflix and it’s high time it made an appearance on this site!

National Lampoons Vacation is the story of one mans desire to spend some quality time with his family. Clark Griswold is in love with the idea of Americana and the traditional family values associated with the Great American dream. For him it takes the form of the perfect roadtrip vacation.

By now you’ve seen this film at least 16 times, but for audiences in 1983 it would’ve been hard to know what to expect from the opening credits. It’s a safe bet that they would have been primed for another Caddyshack-esque romp (1980) from the Harold Ramis/Chevy Chase pairing. Chase was certainly in his prime during the 80’s, but it would be another 2 years before Fletch and 3 years before his performance in Three Amigos.

The film would spawn 4 sequels in the form of European Vacation (1985), Christmas Vacation (1989), Vegas Vacation (1997), and Vacation (2015).

In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted it the 46th Greatest Comedy film of all time. Premiere voted this movie as one of “The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time” in 2006. It was also included among the American Film Institute‘s 2000 list of the 500 movies nominated for the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.

The iconic green station wagon (wagon queen family truckster) with its wood panels is now as iconic as The Batmobile or General Lee.

In true John Hughes fashion the story begins in Illinois, only this time it journeys through Americas great mid west to the backdrop of some iconic cinematic vistas. The script was inspired by a road trip from Hughes childhood, when his family made a similar journey to Disneyland. At the time Hughes was 5 and recalled the vacation in his article for National Lampoons magazine entitled “Vacation 58“.

The script originally had Disneyland as the Griswolds’ vacation destination, but Disney objected – not because of the topless shots in the movie, nor the language used or the depiction of a firearm, not even the sketchy ghetto scene (which is still being debated today). The objection was that Disneyland didn’t close, which was a factor in the plot.

This film speaks to anyone that has ever been confined in a car with their family for a long period of time. My fondest memories of the film are actually from an episode of Pete and Pete that leans heavily on the themes in this film (I believe the episode was called ‘King Of The Road‘).

A heart-warming piece of cinema from a simpler time.


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