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Film / National Lampoon's Vacation

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"I found out, long ago...
(Oh, oh, oh!)
It's a long way down... the holiday road!
(Oh, oh, oh!)

"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!"
Clark W. Griswold

A 1983 comedy film directed by Harold Ramis and starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Imogene Coca, Randy Quaid, Dana Barron, and Anthony Michael Hall, with numerous others (such as John Candy, Eugene Levy, Brian Doyle-Murray, veteran character actor Eddie Bracken, supermodel Christie Brinkley, and future 30 Rock regular Jane Krakowski) featured 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.

A series of sequels followed:

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 "Walley World Water Park" opened in Canada several years after the release of the movie.

National Lampoon's Vacation provides examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming:
    • Ed, the car dealer, calls Rusty "Rueben" and Clark "Clyde."
    • Lasky, to Clark:
      Lasky: What's this concerning, Mr. Grizzle?
  • Adaptational Karma: The original story by Hughes had Clark Griswold going Ax-Crazy when he discovered Disney World was closed for maintenance, purchasing a handgun and driving straight to Walt Disney's home to shoot him, hitting him in the thigh before being tackled by a dozen policemen and put in jail while his family flew back home trying to put all of this behind them. The film climaxes with Clark Griswold going Ax-Crazy when he discovers that Walley World is closed for maintenance, purchasing a realistic BB gun and taking a Walley World security guard hostage so his family can enter the closed park, and being let go with no charges once he explains the whole desperate thing to Roy Wally (and the dozen SWAT Team members surrounding him with guns).
  • Adaptation Title Change: National Lampoon's Vacation is based on a short story called "Vacation 58".
  • 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 and the climax of the film is all about his attempt to defy this trope.
  • The Alleged Car: The Wagon Queen Family Truckster, a parody of Malaise-Era broughamy American cars. 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. The engine keeps running for some time even after it's been shut off.
    • 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, Clark has ripped off the license plate holder while looking for the gas cap, the hubcaps have been stolen, the bodywork has been tagged with graffiti, and the front driver's-side window has been broken. And thanks to Clark's 50-yard jump off an unfinished road, the car is ready to come apart at the seams and all four tires have blown out and been replaced. 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).
  • AM/FM Characterization: While their parents sing a corny song, Rusty and Audrey put on their headphones to listen to The Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop".
  • 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.
  • The Anti-Grinch: All that Clark wants is to provide his family an unforgettable family vacation and have plenty of time shared together. Come hell or high water. Which means leading his family through an endless barrage of awful situations, some of which happen because he didn't want to fly to California like everybody else wanted (because of the aforementioned desire to share time), and climaxing with taking a Walley World guard hostage so they'll be able to use the rides.
  • Artistic License – Cars: After waking up and realizing he's behind the wheel of a runaway car, he slams on the breaks and jerks the wheel, causing the car to screech into a turn until it's barrelling backwards before doing it again and having the car briefly rolling forward until he hits the breaks. Suddenly ending up going backwards with a car in drive is not good for the vehicles transmission. To say nothing of the Truckster still being fully operational with just a few hours of repair after an engine-first nose landing,followed by the rest of car slamming down hard enough to blow out the tires and bend the axles.
  • 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. Not only would a real car dealer keep the trade-in so they could resell it, but Clark had only given his car over for evaluation; the dealership hadn't actually purchased Clark's car yet (destruction of private property). They also ordered the wrong model and force Clark to buy it (bait and switch), and failed to 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.
    • There is also the standard application of "Karma Houdini by way of someone deciding to not pursue charges" in the epilogue. Not even Walt Disney (sorry, Roy Wally) would probably waive the fact that Clark took a man hostage for however long it took them to use several rides of the park as well as general trespassing.
  • Award-Bait Song: Dancin' Across The USA by Lindsey Buckingham.
  • Ax-Crazy: Clark when he finds out the trip was All for Nothing.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: The police officer who pulls Clark over on the assumption he intentionally dragged a dog to death certainly thinks so.
  • 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.
    Relax, it'll be easy for Cousin Normie to find her. All he has to do is look for the buzzards.
  • Black Comedy Pet Death: Wanting to get his family moving as soon as possible, Clark unknowingly drives out of the camp site's parking lot with aunt Edna's yappy little dog still tied to the rear bumper. Miles down the road, he's pulled over and confronted with the empty leash, Clark says that he would never intentionally kill a dog, and the cop lets him go with a warning. Inside the car, Clark tells the others he was pulled over for speeding, but the cop hands him the leash, and says he'll try to pick up the dog's remains. Aunt Edna was not happy.
  • Bumbling Dad: Clark is the king of this trope. Most of the comedy comes from the destructive chaos he causes while he tries to present himself as a man in control.
  • Butt-Monkey: Clark. It wouldn't be a Vacation film without at least 5 bad/embarrassing things happening to himnote .
  • 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.
  • Creator Cameo: Harold Ramis provided the voice of the Marty Moose statue which apologizes that the park is closed.
  • Death Glare:
    • Clark ends up on the receiving end of one from an angry police officer after being pulled over on the assumption he intentionally dragged a dog to it's demise.
    • Ellen gives an epic one to Aunt Edna after Clark jumps the car off the unfinished desert road. Edna, who had been ranting about Clark being a danger to everyone around him, is cowed into silently sitting in the car by Ellen's sheer force of will.
  • Desperate Plea for Home: Audrey Griswold begs her parents to go home rather than going to Wally World by car. This is because she was traumatized by the death of Aunt Edna.
  • Determinator: Clark will stop at nothing to get his family to Walley World. This trope slowly becomes his Fatal Flaw and cause of his Sanity Slippage over the course of the movie, and is carried over to the other movies in the Vacation series.
  • Dirty Cop: After Clark jumps the car off the unfinished road, two mechanics tow it to their garage and replace all the tires (blown out in the landing). They extort all his cash, subtly threatening him with violence unless he pays up. When he asks what the local sheriff thinks of their business practices, one of them flashes a badge — he is the sheriff.
  • 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.
  • Easily Forgiven: Clark is let off the hook for borderline adultery and holding a security guard hostage so that he can ride rides.
  • Exact Words: Trying to sell Clark on the Family Truckster, the car dealer tells him, "You think you hate it now, but wait 'til you drive it."
  • Expy Coexistence: Walley World is a stand-in for Disneyland, with Roy Walley being one for Walt Disney. During his rant, Clark mentions "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," one of Disney's signature songs.
  • Failed Dramatic Exit: The Griswolds say their goodbyes to their friends and neighbors and are about to depart on their adventurous vacation... only for their luggage to fall off the roof of the car as soon as they pull out of the garage.
  • Fictional Counterpart: Walley World, to the Disney Theme Parks, while using Six Flags Magic Mountain as the filming location.
  • Finger-Twitching Revival: A deleted scene shows Aunt Edna is still alive when they strap her to the car roof, then leave her at her son Normie's house. Somehow this was darker than leaving a corpse outside someone's house.
  • Freeze-Frame Ending: The film ends with a shot of the Griswolds, Roy Walley, and the cops on one of the roller coasters.
  • Gilligan Cut: After Clark decides to strap Aunt Edna to the roof of the car, he says "It's not like it's gonna rain!" The scene then cuts to them driving through a thunderstorm.
  • 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.
    • At the end, the family simply return home, even though they committed several serious crimes (like taking the Walley World employees hostage with a gun) and were actually apprehended by the police. The assumption is that Roy Walley decided to press no charges, but it is not his call: once the police got involved, such matters belong to the prosecutor. It's never explained how the prosecution lets them go away scot free.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Clark procures the Family Truckster from one of these.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Ellen is understandably aghast at Clark's crappy and uncaring eulogy for Aunt Edna, stopping it in the middle to deliver her own. Problem is, her speech isn't any better, being more of a thinly-veiled rant at her husband than a genuine expression of grief.
  • 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!"
  • Irony: At the beginning of the film, Clark says that the reason he doesn't want to fly is because when you're on a plane, you can put headphones on and be in your own world, and thus not truly spending time with your family. When Clark and Ellen start (badly) singing various songs, Rusty and Audrey put on headphones in the backseat.
  • Jerkass: Aunt Edna who complains every single chance she gets as she travels with the family. Thankfully she dies along the way.
  • Kafka Komedy: Clark's good intentions all lead to a never-ending streak of humiliating moments.
  • 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 has one.
  • Lighter and Softer: Than the original National Lampoon story by Hughes, which among other differences ended with Clark purchasing a real gun, hunting down the actual Walt Disney to his California home, and shooting him in the leg as a result of finding the amusement park closed and thus ending up going to jail while the rest of the family fly home, trying their damnedest to forget this whole mess ever happened. Needless to say, the original tale was a mite more nihilistic.
  • 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.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Roy mentions he has seven children.
  • Mommy Mobile: The Wagon Queen Family Truckster, a symbol of everything ugly and hideous about American station wagons in the '70s and early '80s. Even discounting its mechanical problems, it symbolized Clark's status as a dull, boring suburban dad.
  • Mocky Mouse: Walley World being based on Disneyland, the mascot Marty Moose serves as a counterpart to Mickey Mouse.
  • 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, being the founder of Walley World, is a stand-in for Walt Disney.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Christie Brinkley.
    • Beverly D'Angelo too, who even does get naked!
  • 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.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: The Griswold children, at least until the 2015 relaunch. This makes Clark's line in the first film about how he'll wake up one day and they'll be grown up pretty funny.
    • Rusty actually gets younger in Christmas Vaction and both Audrey and Rusty are adults in Vegas Vacation but under 21. And adult Audrey does appear in the TV spinoff Cousin Eddie’s Island played by the original actress.
  • Oddball in the Series: It's the only Chevy Chase Vacation film that's rated R.
  • Parental Incest: Cousin Eddie and his daughter Vicki, according to her.
    Vicki: I'm going steady, and I French kiss.
    Audrey: So? Everybody does that.
    Vicki: Yeah, but Daddy says I'm the best at it.
  • Parodies of Fire: The Chariots of Fire theme starts up as the family runs towards Walley World.
  • Pelvic Thrust: Christie Brinkley does a few of these when she dances at the rest stop.
  • Photo Montage:
    • The opening credits are played over a montage of vintage postcards showing various cities, towns, and unique tourist traps across the United States.
    • The end credits are played over a montage of pictures taken during the trip. The last one shows the Griswolds on a plane heading back to Chicago.
  • "Psycho" Shower Murder Parody: Clark does this with Ellen at the first motel that they stay at.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Clark does his best to keep a happy attitude, no matter what happens to the family, as he's sure that Walley World will make it all better. Then it turns out the park is closed for maintenance, and Clark finally snaps.
  • 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 Trip Plot: 90% of the movie is devoted to the drive to Walley World.
  • 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 that they're gonna continue until they arrive at Walley World.
    Rusty: (worried, puts his hand on his shoulder) Dad, you want an aspirin or something?
    Clark: DON'T TOUCH!!
  • Setting Update: In the original short story, the Griswolds lived in 1958 Grosse Pointe, Michigan; the movie transplants them to Present Day (at the time of production) Chicago.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: See All for Nothing above.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: Christie Brinkley.
  • Shower Scene: Thank you, Beverly.
  • Sliding Scale of Adaptation Modification: The film is a Type 4 (Near Identical Adaptation); it changes some names and gives the story a mostly-happy ending, but it sticks close to the original Vacation 58 short story.
  • Tempting Fate: At the midway point, Clark and Ellen agree that the worst is behind them, and then they hit a speed bump which causes them to lose Ellen's credit cards.
  • Thirsty Desert: Clark wandering through Monument Valley.
  • Tranquil Fury: Soon after leaving the campsite, the family finds themselves pulled over by a police officer on a motorcycle. The officer walks up to Clark's window with a disgusted expression, orders Clark out of the car and when Clark questions why he was pulled over, the officer calmly tells him to shut his mouth before threatening him and forcibly dragging Clark to the rear of car where we see the reason for the roadside stop and the officer's agression; Clark left Dinky's leash attached to the rear bumper which lead to the animal accidentally being dragged to death behind the car and the officer thinks he did it on purpose.
    Clark: Hello officer, what's the problem?
    Officer: [removes sunglasses, revealing a Death Glare before disapprovingly shaking his head] Get out of the car.
    Clark: [looks to Ellen and shrugs before exiting the car] I don't think I was speeding, was I weaving or something?
    Officer: Shut your mouth, sir. You know, if I wasn't in uniform I'd split your skull with the butt of this revolver faster than you could say "police brutality".
    Clark: [shaken] Well, officer, whatever it is I've done, I'm sure I can explain-
    Officer: [grabs Clark by the arm and forcibly pulls him over to the rear of the car where he holds up the tattered remains of Dinky's empty collar with the leash attached to the car's rear bumper] Explain this, you son of a bitch.
    Clark: [realizes both his mistake and what it looks like] Oh my God...
  • Trauma Conga Line: While it's Played for Laughs, the Griswolds go through sheer hell to get to an amusement park.
  • 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. You can't help but wonder how it felt as it was dragged to death. Was it wimpering in agony? Or growling in vicious anger?
  • 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?!


Video Example(s):


Christie Brinkley

After Christie takes off all her clothes, she says that it's great to be naked.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / ShamelessFanserviceGirl

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