National Lampoon’s Vacation: 30th Anniversary Edition

Although I much would prefer a theatrical re-release or a fourth Vacation sequel, Warner Bros. celebrates the Griswold family’s inaugural cinematic sojourn with a 30th-anniversary Blu-ray edition. Think about it: Christie Brinkley and Beverly D’Angelo in high-definition; the 12-year-old me would have wept horny tears of joy.

Then still beloved by the public, Chevy Chase earned his iconic role in the goofy, clueless but well-meaning buffoon Clark W. Griswold — a whiplash 180 from the Dapper Dan-type roles he had enjoyed since exiting Saturday Night Live after its initial season. With his better half, Ellen (D’Angelo), Clark loads up the brand-new Family Truckster to take their two kids (Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron) on a vacation of a lifetime: the Disney-esque theme park known as Walley World!

What could go wrong? Oh, not much: unhygienic Kool-Aid, stolen hubcaps, a near-fatal wrong turn, desert dehydration, urine-soaked sandwiches, one dead dog, one dead aunt, near-infidelity, attention from a SWAT team … the usual. And what was gut-busting funny in ’83 remains that way in ’13; then again, most of John Hughes’ scripts were blessed with timelessness as well as expert comic timing.

Warner’s Blu-ray includes the special features from the film’s 20th-anniversary DVD: an introduction from Chase, producer Matty Simmons and scene-stealing co-star Randy Quaid, pre-crazy; and a fun, freewheeling commentary with director Harold Ramis, Simmons and four Griswolds. New to Blu is a zippy, feature-length documentary that reveals its share of stories, but suffers from maddening repetition from where commercial breaks obviously appeared.

What’s not on the disc is disappointing: Vacation‘s fabled original ending that bombed with test audiences. Mere frames appear in the doc, but all second-unit stuff. I hold out hope that we’ll get to see the footage someday; after all, if it finally happened with Little Shop of Horrors, it can happen here.

Accompanying Vacation’s b-day edition to Blu-ray is 1997’s Vegas Vacation, the series’ fourth and so far final theatrical outing, and the only one not to include the Lampoon name. Directed by Stephen Kessler (Paul Williams: Still Alive), it’s piffle compared to Ramis’ original, but you know what? It’s still the Griswolds, and that’s good enough for me. —Rod Lott

Hey! Read This:
Little Shop of Horrors: The Director’s Cut Blu-ray review      
Paul Williams: Still Alive DVD review   

Rod Lott

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