National Lampoon's Vacation [Blu-Ray] Harold Ramis

National Lampoon's Vacation [Blu-Ray] Harold Ramis
Sometimes a comedy only needs a few scenes. Even the best examples of the genre have a couple of iconic moments on which their reputations rest: Charlie Chaplin eating his shoe in The Gold Rush; Groucho and Harpo's mirror scene in Duck Soup; "These ones go to 11," from This Is Spinal Tap. National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), which is definitely not in the same class as those other films, though it has its admirers, contains the perfectly cathartic, climactic invasion of Wally World and the unfortunate fate of the horrible Aunt Edna (Imogene Coca). It is also, with the arguable exception of Fletch, the best showcase of Chevy Chase's comedic film talents. As Clark Griswald (the leader of a family just trying to drive to a Disneyland-type theme park), Chase is cheerful and optimistic in the face of mounting disasters, to the point of psychosis. His unflappability is like a layer of protective armour ― when we see him resort to stealing from a cash register, the gulf between his demeanour and his actions is so vast it's almost heartbreaking. Vacation was the second directorial effort for Harold Ramis, following Caddyshack, as well as co-writing credits on Animal House and Meatballs. Much like those films, Vacation is one sloppy affair. The interlude with Clark's hillbilly cousin, Eddie (Randy Quaid), has all the usual backwoods stereotypes; other gags, like the one involving a vibrating bed, or the entire subplot with Christie Brinkley as a tempting vixen, are all setup and no payoff. And even Ramis admits to regretting the predictable, unfunny scene in a black ghetto. Ramis's anything-for-a-laugh approach also creates tonal issues; John Candy is funny in his extended cameo as a Wally World security guard, but his exaggerated performance is on a different planet than the rest of the cast. This is one of those "classics" that's better remembered than seen. Still, what John Hughes's screenplay lacks in polish it makes up for in drive. As the disasters mount, we can empathize with Clark's slow-burning, barely contained frustration, almost perfectly embodied in Chase's performance ― there's a terrific bit of business where he delivers a solemn life lesson to his son, oblivious to his glasses falling apart on his face. And, of course, there is the fate of Aunt Edna, which is as good a reason as any for Vacation's baffling durability. The few Blu-Ray extras have been ported over from 2003's 20th Anniversary DVD: cast and crew commentary, and a short, skippable introduction. (Warner)