Film: National Lampoon's Vacation

"This is no longer a vacation, it's a quest. It's a quest for fun. I'm gonna have fun and you're gonna have fun, we're all gonna have so much fucking fun we'll need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles!"

National Lampoon's Vacation is a 1983 comedy film directed by Harold Ramis and starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Randy Quaid, Dana Barron and Anthony Michael Hall. The film features numerous others (such as comedians John Candy and Imogene Coca, supermodel Christie Brinkley, and future 30 Rock regular Jane Krakowski) in smaller roles.

The screenplay was written by John Hughes, based on his short story in National Lampoon Magazine, "Vacation '58" (the screenplay changes the year to 1983). The original story is (reportedly) a fictionalized account of his own family's ill-fated trip to Disneyland (changed to "Walley World" for the film) when Hughes was a boy. The success of the movie helped launch his screenwriting career.

The film was a significant box-office hit, earning over $61 million in the United States with an estimated budget of $15 million. In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted National Lampoon's Vacation the 46th greatest comedy film of all time.

A series of sequels followed:

(Note: Since European Vacation is so similar to the first, it's covered below rather than on its own page.)

There was also a 2003 Made-for-TV Movie, Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure, which focuses on Randy Quaid's character and his family, and a 2010 Reunion Show, Hotel Hell Vacation wherein Clark and Ellen stay at a hotel that doesn't go in their favor.

A sequel/reboot to the original has been green lit and filming will begin next year. Ed Helms will star as an adult Rusty Griswold who takes his family on a crosscountry road trip. The film will be written and directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein who previously did Horrible Bosses.

The original, however, is still widely considered to be the best of the Vacation films, and continues to be a popular film and a staple on cable television channels. It also currently garners a 97% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. A "Walley World Water Park" opened in Canada several years after the release of the movie.

Vacation provides examples of:

  • All for Nothing: After all what they have went through in that torturous trip, they finally arrive at Walley World only to find it closed for maintenance. Which proves to be the very last straw for Clark.
  • The Alleged Car: The Wagon Queen Family Truckster, a parody of the American sedans and wagons of the era. The "Wagon Queen Family Truckster" is built using the body and chassis of a 1983 Ford LTD Crown Victoria Country Squire station wagon, with numerous modifications (such as the dual quad headlights and extra fake wood paneling) to create the heavily "over-the-top," intentionally gaudy and ugly appearance.
    • It even has what may be the earliest example of the "accidental airbag deployment" gag. in 1983! (The airbag which actually was offered on virtually zero models in 1983 note  was fashioned using a simple trash bag.)
    • By the end of the trip, it's practically falling to pieces, having survived not only shoddy workmanship, but also vandalism and a 50-yard jump off an unfinished road. Some writers have pointed to this as a parody of the reputation for quality and reliability that AMC and Ford had at the time (whether deserved or not).
  • Amusement Park: Walley World, the final destination of the Griswolds. And they say half the fun is just getting there?
  • Analogy Backfire: When Clark tries to justify his actions to Roy Walley:
    Clark: Can you imagine how your kids would have felt if when you got to Florida, it was closed?
    Roy: Oh, they don't close Florida.
  • Artistic License Cars / Artistic License Law: The dealership where Clark buys the Wagon Queen Family Truckster has an on-site crusher, for some reason, and destroys a trade in that can easily be resold despite it being given to them for evaluation and having not yet purchased it (destruction of private property), ordered the wrong model and force Clark to buy it (bait and switch), and do not install the old plates on the new car, or even a sticker signifying an application for new plates. Clark should have called the police when they crushed his car, but also would have been pulled over for driving without license plates as soon as he left the dealership.
  • Black Comedy: Everything related to Aunt Edna's death. Passing away in the backseat with the kids, getting wrapped up and strapped to the roof (in a sitting position no less), and finally being left on the patio of her son's home in the pouring rain. And Clark and the kids feeling more annoyance than grief about the whole matter.
  • Bumbling Dad: Clark is the king of this trope.
  • Chicago: The Griswolds' home, and where their trek begins.
  • Crowning Moment of Heartwarming: After being typically antagonistic as a brothers and sisters are, when Audrey freaks out about Aunt Edna's death, Rusty comforts her without a second thought.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: When the Griswolds have been through hell and Ellen suggests going home, Clark finally snaps and goes into one of these. It is... epic..
  • Continuity Nod: Clark wears Walley World tees and sweaters throughout European Vacation, and he and Eddie drink eggnog from Walley World souvenir glasses in Christmas Vacation.
  • Corrupt Hick: After jumping the car off the road and damaging it badly, Clark is taken advantage of by a couple of hicks at a gas station, who barely fix his car, then take all of his money. Chevy asks them what their local sheriff thinks of their shady "business" dealings, whereupon they both laugh and one of them flashes a sheriff's badge.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Clark pulls this off when arriving at Walley World, by holding a man who works there at gunpoint, just because they closed it down for two weeks due to street cleaning.
  • Down on the Farm: Cousin Eddie and his family live on a farm in Kansas.
  • Failed Attempt at Drama: The Griswolds say their goodbyes to their friends and neighbors and are about to depart on the vacation...only for their luggage to fall off the roof of the car as soon as they pull out.
  • Fictional Counterpart: Walley World, to the Disney Theme Parks.
  • Finger Twitching Revival: A deleted scene shows Aunt Edna is still alive when they strap her to the car roof, then leave her at a relative's house. Somehow this was darker than leaving a corpse outside someone's house.
  • Hollywood Law: The Honest John's Dealership where Clark buys the Family Truckster somehow gets away with crushing Clark's car before he traded it in for the Truckster, on top of forcing him to buy a model he didn't order (it also begs the question of why they had an on-site crusher). They also drive across the country without license plates or even temporary tags, which would have gotten Clark pulled over as soon as he left the dealership.
    • The cop who pulls the family over for accidentally dragging Dinky to death completely ignores the missing license plate.
    • In the 4th film, the under-21 Rusty obtains a fake I.D. so he can gamble. It might slip pass the guards and pit bosses if he was interested in playing nickle slots, but then he starts winning cars, and then he has the cars sent to a random outskirt motel.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Clark procures the Family Truckster from one of these.
  • Improbable Parking Skills: Clark falls asleep at the wheel, the car wanders onto an exit ramp, careens toward a hotel, and Clark wakes up in time to scream and stomp the brakes. The car stops in a parking spot, and the luggage all tumbles off the top of the car to boot.
    Clark: "Well, we're here!"
  • Jerkass: Aunt Edna who complains every chance she get as she travels with the family. Thankfully she dies along the way.
    • Also leads to a Crowning Moment of Awesome from Beverly D'Angelo's character when she tells Aunt Edna to "sit down, and shut up."
  • Leg Cling: The original movie poster and home video covers, being a parody of classic Frank Frazetta Conan the Barbarian illustrations (in fact, they were designed by Frazetta's fellow Conan illustrator Boris Vallejo).
  • Lingerie Scene: Christie Brinkley
  • Magical Computer: Clark plans out the trip on one. While the car avatar runs through the planned route, Rusty gets bored, picks up a joystick, and makes a Pac-Man kind of thing try to eat it. Clark takes evasive maneuvers with the car avatar. Audrey then defends the car from Rusty's attack by controlling some space alien shooter thing with another joystick.
  • The Mountains of Illinois: The Griswolds visit relatives in Coolidge, Kansas, with mountains visible in some shots. While Coolidge is about 10 miles from the Colorado state line, you can't see mountains until you're about 100 to 125 miles inside Colorado at best. Most of eastern Colorado is about as flat and empty as you'll ever see.
    • Also noticeable at the very beginning when they go to the car dealership in "Chicago." Some palm trees and distant mountains are visible in the background.
  • Mr. Alt Disney: Roy Walley.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Christie Brinkley.
    • Beverly D'Angelo!
  • Nausea Dissonance: After the Griswolds discover their dog had peed on their sandwiches, everyone starts spitting their sandwich out except Aunt Edna, who just keeps eating.
  • Negative Continuity: The film series is built on this. Nothing that ever happens in previous films affects the later ones. Ever. And the films feel free to contradict each other. Rule of Funny is in full play.
  • Parodies of Fire: The Chariots of Fire theme starts up as the family runs towards Walley World.
  • Ramp Jump: Clark has an unintentional one in the middle of the Arizona desert that pretty much destroys the Family Truckster, though that doesn't stop him from admiring his "work."
    Clark (proudly, under his breath): "Fifty yards!"
  • Road Movie
  • Sanity Slippage: What happens to Clark when their trip proves to be All for Nothing.
    • It started to slip when the family complains about the terrible experience they had so far and just wanna go home. He tells them they're all crazy and they're gonna continue and they'll have fun.
    Rusty: (worried, puts his hand on his shoulder) Dad, you want an aspirin or something?
    Clark: DON'T TOUCH!!
  • Shaggy Dog Story: See All for Nothing above.
  • Shower Scene: Thank you, Beverly.
  • Spiritual Successor: Little Miss Sunshine
  • Technology Marches On: Today, finding out if the park is closed would be as simple as checking its web page, and because of the prevalence of GPS, getting lost driving across the country would be much more difficult.
    • Also, Clark's payment problems after he's strongarmed out of his cash would not be that much of a problem nowadays considering that debit payments from his bank account is common and credit cards are accepted in far more places now.
  • Thirsty Desert: Clark wandering through Monument Valley.
  • Two-Person Pool Party: It's broken up before anything serious can happen, though.
    • Clark actually gets two in the first movie. One with Christie and only a few minutes later, one with Beverly. Both are cut short because the water is too cold.
  • Violently Protective Wife: Ellen telling Aunt Edna to "sit down and shut up" after she complains about Clark for the umpteenth time.
  • What a Drag: That poor dog. Sure, it was a nasty sandwich-pisser, but it didn't deserve that.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Ellen calls Clark out for the attitude in the car after they delivered Aunt Edna's body, and for the way he acted on the trip. Though, Clark is annoyed by her negativity and goes to a bar to cool off.
    Ellen: Where are you going?
    Clark: What do you care?!

European Vacation provides examples of:

  • Furry Fandom: The Griswolds wear pig suits on the game show.
  • Game Show: The Griswolds win their trip to Europe on a game show called "Pig in a Poke."
  • Left It In: Before the family leaves for their trip to Europe, Clark videotapes Ellen while she's taking a shower, who then tells him to delete it after he's finished. The family gets their camera stolen by a thief while they're in France; when they arrive in Rome, Ellen then discovers that Clark did not delete the video of her in the shower at all, when she sees a poster advertising a movie that starred her. Apparently, the thief discovered the video after he stole the camera and advertised it as a movie.
  • Real Award, Fictional Character: The film opens with the Griswolds facing off with a family of geniuses on a game show. The parents are both Nobel Prize winners and the kids are no less brilliant. The Griswolds win anyway... by accident.
  • Recycled In Space: The basic theme is the same, a family traveling together and experiencing every possible problem, setback, and trauma.
  • Running Joke: Or rather bicycling joke.
  • Theme Park Version: Everything in Europe is exactly how you'd expect it to be, assuming you're an American who's never been there and who relies solely on National Stereotypes.
  • Unlucky Extra: A random English tourist (played by Eric Idle), is always on the receiving end of any kind of accident inflicted upon him by the Griswolds. In fact, he even appears again in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure, during the airport scene.

Alternative Title(s):

National Lampoons Vacation, National Lampoons European Vacation