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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Harold Ramis
Cast:
Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid, John Candy, Beverly D'Angelo, Christie Brinkley
Writing Credits:
John Hughes

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

Synopsis:
Everything is planned. Everything is packed. And everything is about to go hilariously wrong. The Griswolds are going on vacation. In the driver's seat, of course, is Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), an Everyman eager to share the open road and the wonders of family togetherness with his wife and kids. Myriad mishaps, crude kin (Randy Quaid), encounters with a temptress (Christie Brinkley), financial woes, Aunt Edna (Imogene Coca) on the roof, one security guard (John Candy) and 2,460 miles later, it is indeed a wonder the Griswolds are together. There’s never been a family vacation like it. Except perhaps for yours. And that helps explain why National Lampoon's Vacation remains so popular...and so very funny.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross
$61.400 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Monaural
French Monaural
Spanish Monaural
Portuguese Monaural
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Portuguese
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 99 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 8/19/2003

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary With Director Harold Ramis, Producer Matty Simmons, and Actors Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid, Dana Barron and Anthony Michael Hall
• All-New Introduction By Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid, and Producer Matty Simmons
• “Family Truckster” Featurette Gallery
• Trailer


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


National Lampoon's Vacation: 20th Anniversary Edition (1983)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 15, 2003)

Has it really been 20 years since National Lampoon’s Vacation hit movie screens? Apparently, or else someone should sue Warner Bros. for the release of this “20th Anniversary Special Edition” DVD. A hit at the time and a consistently popular film over the period since 1983, I think Vacation feels pretty hit or miss, but it generates a reasonable amount of entertainment.

Vacation focuses on the Griswold family: father Clark (Chase), mother Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), and teen children Audrey (Dana Barron) and Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall). Apparently Clark works all the time, so he tries to overcompensate for his time away from the family during their annual vacations. This year they buy a new vehicle to drive from Chicago to LA to visit the legendary Walley World amusement park.

If you’re looking for a plot, that’s pretty much it. Honestly, Vacation doesn’t really offer a story as much as it features a theme. We watch the family as they suffer various indignities during their drive. Most of these pour degradation upon Clark, and we see him slowly start to lose it. He becomes absolutely obsessed with the successful completion of the trip, and that monomaniacal focus leads to many comic opportunities.

Director Harold Ramis started in the sketch comedy world of SCTV, and his origins seem clear from his earliest movies. Vacation was his second directorial effort after 1980’s Caddyshack, and it actually demonstrated some real growth in Ramis’ abilities. Caddyshack was a very sloppy and often amateurish film, whereas Vacation comes across as much more self-assured and professional.

But it does remain true to Ramis’ affection for sketch comedy. For all intents and purposes, Vacation offers little more than a series of skits connected by the family trip theme. Of course, Clark’s slow disintegration also helps tie them together, but most of them could stand independently.

I think the vacation theme helps ensure the continued popularity of the flick, though. Most of us can relate to the miserable long car rides taken with family, and Vacation mines that territory nicely. It plays up the absurdities of those treks but remains a close enough connection with reality to keep it human.

Virtually every Ramis flick suffers from inconsistencies, and Vacation doesn’t seem like an exception. When it hits, it does so pretty well. The flick’s best bits remain memorable and amusing. The comedy misses the mark more than occasionally, however. The gags never become truly bad, but I must admit the movie contains fewer laughs than I recalled.

Still, Vacation continues to offer a reasonably amusing experience. 20 years after its creation, Christie Brinkley’s performance remains atrocious, but the movie survives nonetheless. A fairly lively and funny flick, Vacation is a good ride.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+

National Lampoon’s Vacation appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. That factor alone will entice many viewers, as the original release of Vacation on DVD presented it fullframe only. Will they feel happy with what they find in this new transfer? I think so, as it provided a very solid picture.

The movie exhibited solid sharpness. Virtually no softness cropped up during the film. Instead, it looked nicely crisp and detailed at all times. I noticed no issues related to jagged edges or moiré effects, but a little edge enhancement popped up occasionally. Print flaws seemed quite minimal for a film of this era. Periodic specks or bits of grit showed sometimes, but not frequently. For the most part, the flick remained nicely free of defects.

Especially since many Eighties movies featured dense tones, I thought the colors of Vacation looked surprisingly good. The film featured a bright palette, and the hues consistently came across as nicely vivid and dynamic. They never seemed too heavy, and they also were tight and firm. Black levels were acceptably deep and rich, while shadows seemed clean and appropriately opaque. A couple of the low-light situations – like the one in the urban area early in the movie – were a little thick, but mostly these shots appeared well defined. Vacation just barely missed getting an “A”-level grade, as the image seemed consistently impressive.

I also felt pretty pleased with the monaural soundtrack of Vacation. Speech occasionally displayed a little edginess but showed no problems related to intelligibility. For the most part, speech seemed reasonably natural, despite a few instances of some awkward looping. Effects lacked much heft, but they retained acceptable fidelity and clarity, and they demonstrated no issues related to distortion. Music sounded quite strong, as the songs and score were bright and rich. They featured surprisingly positive bass response and seemed pretty dynamic considering their age. One or two scenes demonstrated a little hiss and hum, but those issues failed to become excessive. Given the movie’s age and the limits of mono sound, I thought the mix worked quite well.

For this “20th Anniversary Special Edition” of Vacation, we get a small mix of new extras. The set opens with an introduction from Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid, and producer Matty Simmons. This lasts a whopping 40 seconds and is cute but extremely insubstantial.

Next we find an audio commentary that involves director Harold Ramis, producer Matty Simmons, and actors Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid, Dana Barron and Anthony Michael Hall. Ramis was recorded on his own, while the other five sat together. Both sessions resulted in running, screen-specific tracks that were edited together for this piece.

Let’s do the math. Ramis’s prior solo commentaries usually seemed sporadically interesting at best, and Chase’s track for European Vacation was pretty much a dull disaster. Combine those two, add a few others, and what do you get? A pretty flat and uninformative commentary.

Occasionally, some decent notes do emerge. The best components relate changes from the script. We also learn of the flick’s original ending, and Ramis tells us why they re-shot it. A few nice anecdotes pop up along the way as well. However, much of the piece provides the most rudimentary material that doesn’t tell us much about the making of the movie. At times the participants do little more than narrate the film. In addition, a surprising number of empty spaces pop up along the way. With six speakers, one might expect no dead air, but gaps become a real problem. Vacation fans seem destined to become disappointed with this weak commentary.

In addition to the film’s theatrical trailer - presented anamorphic 1.85:1 with mono sound – we find Cast and Crew entries. As usually occurs with Warner Bros. DVDs, these include no biographies or filmographies; it’s just a static screen that lists some names.

Lastly, the Family Truckster Interactive Feature lets you click on various parts of the car, with differing results. Sometimes you just get a montage of movie clips, but other segments are more informative. Click on the rear door and you’ll get a three minute and 45 second featurette in which producer Matty Simmons and stunt coordinator/driver Dick Ziker discuss the design of the car and the execution of various elements related to it. Select the rear tire and we see a two-minute piece in which Christie Brinkley and Simmons chat about her “big scene”. Choose the front tire and get 69 seconds of notes from Brinkley about how she spent all her down time on the film.

The selection of the front bumper includes 58 seconds from Dana Barron as she details why she didn’t play Audrey in the other Vacation flicks. The windshield displays a car radio. Click the first button and Barron quickly introduces the setting. When you choose the different buttons, you get snippets of different Griswold musical moments from the flick. These also show very brief outtakes from the Simmons/Chase/Quaid introduction plus a video montage of Brinkley scenes introduced by Christie. Overall, the “Truckster” area presents some fun material but nothing terribly special.

Over the last 20 years, National Lampoon’s Vacation turned into something of a comedy classic. I’m not quite sure it deserves that vaunted status, but the film still seems pretty amusing and entertaining in any case. The DVD offers surprisingly good picture plus fairly positive audio and a mediocre collection of supplements. The latter come as a disappointment, but the generally high quality of this release means that it merits my recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4666 Stars Number of Votes: 45
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