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Film / National Lampoon's European Vacation

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"Oh the hills are alive with the sound of Griswald..."'
Clark W. Griswald in an Imagine Spot

National Lampoon's European Vacation is a 1985 comedy movie that serves as a direct sequel to National Lampoon's Vacation. Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo reprise their respective roles as Clark and Ellen Griswald, while Dana Hill and Jason Lively assume the roles of the Griswald children.

After the Griswald family accidentally wins a European vacation courtesy of the popular game show Pig in a Poke, Clark drags them out of the house once again to see as many sights as possible in the iconic locations of London, Stonehenge, Paris, Germany, and Rome.

European Vacation provides examples of:

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  • The Alleged Car: The Citroen DS they use on the Continent has the usual Griswald-car body add-ons as well as mainly being used with its suspension at full height. The Austin Maxi they used in the UK, however, was 100% stock.
  • Appeal to Obscurity: Discussed by Mrs. Froeger when her family gets to pick the next question on Pig in a Poke. One available category is "Early Hungarian cabinet-making" and she suggests choosing it because "no one knows anything about Hungarians."note 
  • Artistic License – History: The vacation of the title is won when the Griswalds/Griswolds are asked to name the captain who lead the Louisianna Purchase expedition and Ellen accidentally answers by shouting "Clark!" to get her husbands attention, which the host accepts as the right answer. While William Clark and Meriwether Lewis were both Captains, Lewis was the actual leader of the expedition with Clark being his second-in-command.
  • Balloon Belly: During the flight, Audrey has a nightmare in which she starts to gorge on European foods and becomes so fat that she can't get out of her chair.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • Parts of the movie not in English are untranslated. One such scene is when Clark tells a German man that he and his family are looking for sechs (the German word for six and the number of an address for his relatives, but the way Clark words it makes it sound like they are "looking for sex"), and the man slams the door in his face while calling him "schweinhund!", a German insult that when translated literally means "pig dog."
    • When they have dinner with the elderly German couple, the man asks "Isn't that Hermann's kids that he had with that woman from Hamburg?" and his wife replies "Hermann never had kids."
  • Blatant Lies: Russ describes his parents to a girl in Rome as "normal parents."
  • Call-Back:
    • Clark screams when he sticks his feet in a cold fountain, similarly to how he screamed when he jumped in the cold pool in the original vacation.
    • He also spends much of the trip wearing a Wally World sweater.
  • Characterization Marches On: Rusty and Audrey take on very different personalities than in the first installment. Audrey possesses newfound Big Eater tendencies while Russ is obsessed with music, MTV, and girls.
  • Chekhov's Gag: The video of Ellen performing "Big Spender" in a Modesty Towel which also includes her and Clark having sex. After a man in France steals Clark's camcorder, later in Italy, the Griswalds later find a billboard of the video La Donna nella Doccia (Woman In The Shower).
  • Damsel in Distress: Ellen gets drunk in Rome and is kidnapped by a man trying to get a hold of her car keys.
  • Demoted to Extra: Downplayed; while Rusty and Audrey are in the film just as much as their parents, their depth and personalities from the first film have been whittled down to the point where their personalities can be summed up in three words; Audrey just misses her boyfriend and Rusty has been dumbed down to a generic horny teenaged boy.
  • Deadpan Snarker: All of the Griswalds have their moments. When Clark tries getting a family picture in Paris, even Rusty's not immune.
    Rusty: Yeah, the Griswalds in front of a fountain. Major entertainment.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Clark puts these skills to use in the climactic Chase Scene in Rome.
  • Game Show: The Griswalds win their trip to Europe on a game show called "Pig in a Poke."
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: The French waiter does this while insulting the Griswolds.
  • High-School Sweethearts: Ellen states verbatim that she and Clark filled this role, and even waited until they planned to get married to have sex.
  • Ignore the Fanservice: Ellen shows Clark the sexy outfit she purchased in Paris and pleads that she and Clark spend some alone time in the hotel. Clark, however, is intent on taking her out for a romantic, cultured night on the town.
  • Imagine Spot: Each of the Griswalds has one during the flight to London.
    • Ellen dreams about meeting the British Royal Family and Princess Diana getting jealous of her for being with Clark.
    • Rusty dreams about being a pop star at a club.
    • Audrey has a nightmare in which she gets fat from European meals.
    • Clark has a Sound of Music-style dream of his family in the Alps.
  • Inconsistent Spelling: Curiously, this is the only installment in the series to spell the central family's name "Griswald," as the rest of the movies credit the characters as "Griswold."
  • It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: Or Oktoberfest in Germany. Note that when the Griswolds escape, the train station says the town is Battenberg, which is in Rhineland-Palatinate. Oktoberfest is a Bavarian festival.
  • 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.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: The man who was riding a bike whom Clark hits with his car is covered with scrapes, but brushes it all off. When he begins spurting blood from his wrists, he states that it's just a flesh wound. Oh yeah, and he's played by Eric Idle.
  • Makeover Montage: The Griswalds go through one in Rome when they go through a bunch of new outfits to try on.
  • Modesty Towel: Clark records Ellen's dance while she wears nothing but a towel.

  • Nipple and Dimed: Averted. A waitress at the Oktoberfest gathering sneaks off with Rusty, and gets her blouse off. Clark screws things up and the family has to leg it before things progress from there.
  • Not So Above It All: Ellen once again tries to play the role of the Only Sane Man on their family vacation, but after her Rage Breaking Point listed below, she goes back to their hotel to get plastered.
  • Oddball in the Series: European Vacation is the only Vacation movie not to feature Cousin Eddie and his family.
  • Oktoberfest: The Griswalds go to Germany to meet their German relatives, except they weren't.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Uttered by Eric Idle himself.
  • Pædo Hunt: Seriously, it seems like every waiter they encounter tries to proposition the kids. This isn't Europeans Are Kinky, this is Europeans Are Disgusting Perverted Lowlifes.
  • Partially-Concealed-Label Gag: Clark takes the family on a side trip from their game show prize vacation to visit their relatives in Germany. They're looking for house six ("6") and it appears they found it and introduce themselves to the couple living there. Just after they step inside, a leaf falls away from the number sign, revealing that it actually says sixteen ("16"). Clark and his family stay with the couple for a night and leave without ever noticing the couple was not their relatives.
  • Photo Montage: The ending credits set to Network's "Back in America", showcasing the symbols of 1980's Americana that the Griswalds are returning to after their adventures across the Atlantic.
  • Popping Buttons: Audrey's Imagine Spot in which she gets fat from European desserts.
  • Post Stress Over Eating: After learning she doesn't have to stay thin for Jack anymore, Audrey begins gorging herself at the hotel restaurant.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Clark lies to Ellen about deleting her Modesty Towel dance on their camera before it was stolen. Eventually, the family comes across a pornographic movie poster obviously referring to the video and featuring Ellen as the star. She is not amused.
  • Real Award, Fictional Character: The film opens with the Griswalds 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 Griswalds 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.
  • "Rediscovering Roots" Trip: Parodied when the Griswolds make a stop to visit their German relatives. They have a wonderful time and feel more connected to their roots than ever... except that the couple they visited weren't actually relatives; Clark found the wrong house.
  • Rental Car Abuse: When Clark Griswold rents a Citroën DS, he accidentally drives it into a too small gap and it gets stuck.
  • Shout-Out: The page quote above demonstrates a very blatant one to The Sound of Music.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts:
    • Audrey and her boyfriend Jack are seen making out for much of Jack's limited screen time. She spends the rest of the vacation pining for him.
    • The couple who's honeymooning in Europe is also very engrossed in each other. Russ thinks they're about to have sex in public, and upon a second glance Clark tells him it's possible.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: All four members of the Froegers, the opposing family who have never lost on Pig in a Poke, sport a pair.
  • The 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.
  • Train Escape: After causing a riot at Oktoberfest, the Griswolds make a beeline for the train station to get out of Germany.
  • "Ugly American" Stereotype: Father Clark Griswold is The Fool who shepherds his family across a whirlwind tour of Western Europe, mother Ellen tries to be the Only Sane Man, and the Griswold children are disgusted at being dragged through a continent-sized Weirdoland. This family tends to make themselves personae non gratae wherever they go, causing mayhem and trouble everywhere with their ignorance.
  • Undying Loyalty: Though Rusty is less supportive of Clark's endeavors this time around, he ditches a topless blonde to come to his father's aid when Clark is at risk of being hanged. He gripes about it later, of course, but he once again joins his father in the climactic Chase Scene, proving his dedication.
  • 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 Griswalds. In fact, he even appears again in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure, during the airport scene.
  • Vague Age: Rusty actually averts this trope, stating his age to be fifteen. Audrey is still only implied to be younger until Christmas Vacation clearly portrays her as an older sister.