- Movie Rating -

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

| July 29, 1983

I have sat through every movie that Chevy Chase has made either by choice or by accident and I can confidently say that this is the first time that I have seen him actually play a character.  What a relief that is.  Chase is a talented comedian but he has gotten himself into a rut, playing the same smartass wise guy in every single movie.  Here at last he plays a character that I really like.

He plays Clark Griswald, a salesman who seems to be the world’s last true family man, a man who loves his family – his wife and his son and daughter – with such a fierce, honest devotion that he wants to pad their memories with happiness even if it kills them.

It is endearing, and it’s also very funny because National Lampoon’s Vacation is in the great tradition of its source, which was devoted to satirizing the holy sacraments of the American culture.  Of course, the film isn’t as savage of the magazine (what movie could be) but director Harold Ramis and former magazine staffer John Hughes understand what they have in the ritual of the family vacation.

Chase’s Clark Griswald sees the years of his children’s daddy love slipping fast and he wants to give them a vacation they’ll never forget.  So, he gets the bright idea to drive them 2000 miles from Chicago to Anaheim to a Disney-type theme park called Wally World, along the way experiencing car crashes, obnoxious relatives, tourist traps, missing credit cards, mean dogs, bad hotels, bad restaurants, bad service, Rain, cops, flat tires, public embarrassments and at least one neighborhood that a suburban white family might do best to stay out of.  It is a road trip filled with everything, but at the wheel is Chase’s chipper paterfamilias who sees it all as part of the experience, at least until he reaches the finish line and nearly loses his mind.

The movie is great because, like its source, it isn’t afraid to go sacred places.  I love the opening shot of Clark’s new car, a Brobdingnag monstrosity, a giant station wagon with four headlight and a motor that sounds like a fierce animal – it’s called The Truckster.  And it goes from there.  The journey is never boring, it’s one damned thing after another and it’s just plain fun.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1983) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy