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National Lampoon's Vacation(1983)
The Griswolds have planned all year for a great summer vacation. From their suburban Chicago home, across America, to the wonders of the Walley World fun park in California, every step of the way has been carefully plotted. So what if they lose all their money when their new car gets wrecked. And it's not too bad when Cousin Eddie deposits sour Aunt Edna in their back seat for a lift to Phoenix. But what really keeps Clark's eyes on the road is a flirtation with a mysterious blonde in a red Ferrari.
For more about National Lampoon's Vacation and the National Lampoon's Vacation Blu-ray release, see National Lampoon's Vacation Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on August 6, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Randy Quaid, Anthony Michael Hall, Eddie Bracken, Brian Doyle-Murray
Director: Harold Ramis
» See full cast & crew
National Lampoon's Vacation Blu-ray Review
Shouldn't it be "Walley Land" instead of "Walley World" if they're going to the "Disney" theme park in California? Whatever, 'Vacation' earns a good enough Blu-ray release from Warner Brothers.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, August 6, 2010
The whole idea of a family vacation is to spend time together as a family.
There aren't too many Comedies that have spawned a franchise while retaining core cast members for the long haul; Eugene Levy is certainly a mainstay of the American Pie series, but Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, and Randy Quaid are the cornerstones of the National Lampoon's Vacation-themed films. The series owes its success to a hard-to-beat Comedy trio; in 1983, Actor Chevy Chase teamed up with Director Harold Ramis and Writer John Hughes for a modest little Comedy that would earn back about four times its budget in box office revenue and find great success with audiences and critics alike. National Lampoon's Vacation has not only withstood the test of time as a Comedy classic, but it yielded several quality sequels, including the ever-popular December staple Christmas Vacation, a picture that stands among the best of the many Holiday-themed movies. As for the original, it's a predictable but fun little exercise in classic Comedy that's not the best in the series but is nevertheless a hallmark picture representative of one of the genre's great eras.
The Griswold family is setting out on a cross-country journey from Chicago (where else in a John Hughes movie?) to California. Their destination: Walley World (no, not that Wally World), a major theme park that promises big crowds, long lines, high prices, and plenty of family fun. Of course, it wouldn't be a family vacation if everything went according to plan. Family patriarch Clark (Chevy Chase, Funny Farm) believes that piling the family into a station wagon and spending some face time with the kids over a period of days will only add to the fun. After a new car deal goes awry, Clark and company head west in search of the ultimate family getaway. What they find is nothing of the sort. Whether getting lost in a bad part of St. Louis, dodging bullets in Dodge City, meeting up with distant relatives, taking on added (and grouchy) cargo, or bringing to their attention a heavily-armed SWAT team, the Griswolds are in for the time of their lives -- and they haven't even had a funnel cake yet.
National Lampoon's Vacation might not be the absolute best picture in the series -- it's hard to top Christmas Vacation -- but in the Road Trip sub-genre, it stands at the top of the heap. Imitators like Johnson Family Vacation and RV don't hold a candle to 1983's Comedy classic, but then again, those pictures are absent the incredible Comedic talent that takes Vacation a long way towards not just respectability, but excellence. Never mind that the picture is visually dated to what is now itself humorous effect; plaid jackets, chunky computer graphics, and station wagons adorned with wood paneling only add to the picture's brand of offbeat and subtle humor that's vastly superior to the gross-out, bottom-feeding laughs in which so many of today's Comedies revel. Vacation is a picture that finds its humor in exaggerated illustrations of everyday life, whether a family lost in the wrong part of town, being stuck with an annoying and unwelcome relative, or Clark Griswold's acts of hubris that land the family in one sticky situation after another. After all, it's the everyday things -- things that the ordinary family man, relative, wife, son, or daughter can relate to -- that make for the best Comedy, and Vacation is a picture built around that idea of taking ordinary people and putting their seemingly innocent vacation in jeopardy and their sanity to the test.
Chevy Chase is the perfect actor to play the family's patriarch. He captures not only that all-American dad façade but also that "can do no wrong" attitude wonderfully. Director Harold Ramis -- only on his second stint behind the camera but following up on another gem of a Comedy in Caddyshack -- and Writer John Hughes allow Clark's blunders to pile up one after another, and that plays right into Chase's strengths as a comedian. While Vacation finds plenty of laughs in Clark's misadventures, it's his "everything's fine, nothing to see here, move alone now" reactions and the way he tries to go with the flow and mold a solution to a sticky situation on-the-fly only to find himself in deeper trouble with his family and whatever hot water he's landed himself in that truly defines the picture's humor. It's the constant build-up of Clark's insistence that everything's going to be alright now and for the rest of the vacation that's not only the main theme here but in most of the Vacation films. It's rare to find a formula and an actor that works time after time, but that's a major reason why the Vacation series has maintained its appeal over the years.
National Lampoon's Vacation Blu-ray, Video Quality
National Lampoon's Vacation drives onto Blu-ray with a surprisingly steady and good-looking 1080p, 1.78:1-framed transfer. Warner's Blu-ray delivers a strong color palette; the various hues -- Clark's blue suit, the family's green wagon -- might make viewers cringe in fear at 1980s style and fashion, but at least the transfer appears faithful to the source. Detail, too, is impressive for an aging Comedy; close-ups reveal nicely-realized textures on faces, while clothes sport clean and visible lines. The fabric seats inside the car and other odds and ends found throughout the entire movie appear pleasantly stable and naturally textured, but some background elements -- notably as seen in several distant aerial shots -- appear fuzzy and indistinct. Nevertheless, the image is free of heavy digital manipulation; grain remains intact and aids in the delivery of a pleasing film-like image, and other technical bugaboos rarely factor into the equation. Black levels do devour some image detail in darker scenes, but flesh tones generally remain an honest shade. National Lampoon's Vacation lacks that spit-and-polished veneer of newer movies transfered correctly to Blu-ray, but Warner's presentation does yield a handsome film-like texture that appears faithful to the source. All in all, this is a strong presentation of a classic 1980s Comedy.
National Lampoon's Vacation Blu-ray, Audio Quality
National Lampoon's Vacation pulls onto Blu-ray with a stable but sonically inconsequential DTS-HD MA 1.0 lossless soundtrack. Yup, a mere single channel of Vacation fun is all that's here, but that's all that's required to get the family from the Windy City to Disney...er...Walley World in one piece. The track has its moments where it wants for a less mushy presentation, but for the most part, this DTS mix handles the limited material well enough. Obviously, there's little range and no real sense of space to the track, and while superior clarity is almost always lacking, the film's music -- particularly the hit song "Holiday Road" -- enjoys a fair bit of crispness and energy through the limited presentation. Various sound effects, too, could use some more oomph, particularly a gun shot and some roller coaster rattling and rolling heard near the end of the film. Likewise, other, similar elements heard throughout the picture play as suitably focused and sufficiently -- but not at all realistically -- presented. The track is free of any distracting pops or hissing, and dialogue is consistently discernible and nicely balanced. Though they don't come much more basic than this, Vacation's mono soundtrack serves the movie well enough.
National Lampoon's Vacation Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Warner Brothers graces National Lampoon's Vacation with but two extras, an introduction to the film with Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid, and Matty Simmons (480p, 0:44) and an audio commentary track with Harold Ramis, Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid, Anthony Michael Hall, Dana Barron, and Matty Simmons. For a multi-participant commentary, this one lacks the typical party flavor, but to the benefit of the track. It's steady and informative, with Ramis handling the bulk of the comments as he discusses the story, anecdotes from the set, his work as director, and plenty more. The other participants chime in now and then but more often than not seem to disappear behind Ramis' dominance. There are some stretches of silence, but fans will enjoy this track.
National Lampoon's Vacation Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
National Lampoon's Vacation is a legitimate Comedy classic, not only because it's a quality film in its own right, but because it's the granddaddy of a series of pictures that have become mainstays of Comedy through the course of the past few decades. The picture is built around characters that most anyone can relate to and see themselves as, and that's the foundation for many of the great Comedies. More than any other element, though, it's the cast and crew that make Vacation a cinematic trip worth taking. The trio of Chase, Ramis, and Hughes is tough to beat, and they're in rare form with Vacation; it's a Comedy that's structurally predictable but nonetheless magical that never seems to get old or loose its luster, even if some of its visuals are really starting to show their age. Warner Brothers' Blu-ray release of National Lampoon's Vacation is unfortunately lacking a stronger supplemental package, but it does boast a surprisingly steady and pleasing 1080p transfer and a workmanlike mono lossless soundtrack. The lack of extras is unfortunate, but everything else about this release screams "buy me!" Recommended.
National Lampoon's Vacation: Other Editions
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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has announced the 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray release of National Lampoon's Vacation and the Blu-ray debut of one of the series sequels, Vegas Vacation. Both comedies star Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo and Randy Quaid, and street ...
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Warner Home Video has announced three comedy movies for release on Blu-ray on August 10: Peter Bogdanovich's 1972 hit What's Up, Doc? and two 1980s Chevy Chase vehicles, National Lampoon's Vacation and National Lampoon's European Vacation. Note that the latter ...
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