National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

national lampoons vacation

“This is crazy, this is crazy, this is crazy!”

The Scoop: 1983 R, directed by Harold Ramis and starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Imogene Coca, and Randy Quaid

Tagline: Every summer Chevy Chase takes his family on a little trip. This year he went too far.

Summary Capsule: The Griswald family takes an epic journey across the USA to go to Wally World!

Justin’s rating: Q-tips in my mouth, ears, and nose

Justin’s review: The first of the spectacular series known as the “National Lampoon Vacation” begins back in the days of yore (1983). The Griswald family, a mildly dysfunctional group in Chicago, are shopping for a car for their summer vacation to travel to the greatest amusement park known to man — Wally World. The car they end up with is a pea soup green station wagon (with wood panels) that takes a good five minutes for the engine to stop clicking. I mean, Great Zeus, this is the ugliest automobile that has ever graced the highways of America, and I include the Oscar Weinermobile in that statement. Although, it would be pretty cherry to drive the Weinermobile around.

Thus, the Griswalds set out from Chicago to California, with many many warped stops on the way. The family patriarch, Clark (Chevy Chase), is the ultimate dork of a husband and father. His drive to have the perfect vacation (naturally) ends up in disaster… after disaster. Memorize that previous sentence, since it is a common motif for all four Vacation movies. His wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) is sweet and supporting if a bit daft in the head; one can only wonder why she sticks with Clark through all these experiences (Valium is my guess). Then we have puberty-stricken Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) and pre-dope head Audrey (Dana Barron).

This being something between a road trip movie and a Tolkein-esque quest to find Wally World (I suppose Disney wasn’t as loose with their copyright infringement as they are now). The Griswald family alone are enough to hold the movie — but everyone they encounter just send this film into ClassicLand.

A few of the adventures they have: killing off various relatives, getting lost in the bad part of St. Louis (as if there is such a thing), and a nice pit stop to Cousin Eddie’s house. Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) is about the biggest loser on the planet, and also the best role Quaid ever had the privilege of portraying. He lives in Kansas [insert your own “Kansas is really… flat” joke here] with his wife and fifteen kids (or something like that; hey, it’s not MY job to verify these facts!). He’s broke, he eats Hamburger Helper without the hamburger, he’s got a metal plate in his head. Give it up for Cousin Eddie, everyone!

Nearly non-stop hilarious, Vacation uses situations that become more and more outrageous until the final, bittersweet end (I won’t spoil it for you, but somebody is not the gender they appear. I think.). Chevy does a bang-up job with this sincere-yet-doofus role, and the theme song is kinda catchy. However, if you’re an avid PETA member, I advise you to rent some other flick (like Starship Troopers) while your close friends and canines enjoy a great Vacation.

The Truckster. One. Sweet. Ride.


  • John Candy in a bit part as a Wally World guard
  • The postcards at the beginning and end (and the scenes they portray)
  • Ah, Christie Brinkley
  • While the characters of Clark and Ellen remain the same through all four Vacation movies, both Rusty and Audrey are played by four different actors/actresses. Rusty was played by Anthony Michael Hall, Jason Lively, Johnny Galecki, and Ethan Embry. Audrey was played by Dana Barron, Dana Hill, Juliette Lewis, and Marisol Nichols.
  • Vacation was scripted with Disneyland as the Griswold’s destination, but Disney objected, pointing out that they are open 365 days a year.

Groovy Quotes

Audrey: Mom, where can I go to the bathroom?
Ellen: Find a bush Audrey!

Eddie: How do you like yours, Clark?
Clark: Oh, medium rare, a little pink inside.
Eddie: No, I mean your bun.

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.

Eddie: I don’t know why they call this stuff hamburger helper. It does just fine by itself, huh? I like it better than tuna helper myself, don’t you, Clark?
Clark: You’re the gourmet around here, Eddie.

Ellen: We can’t leave Aunt Edna on the patio!
Clark: Would you prefer I slip her in the night deposit box at the funeral home?

Clark: This is crazy, this is crazy, this is crazy!

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