National Lampoon’s Vacation appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie showed its age but looked pretty good nonetheless.
Overall sharpness seemed fine. The movie rarely displayed terrific clarity, and some softness occurred. However, this seemed to be an artifact of the original photography, and the lack of definition wasn’t a severe issue; the flick still offered pretty good delineation.
I noticed no signs of jaggies or moiré effects, and edge haloes were absent. Source flaws also failed to materialize in this clean presentation.
Though many Eighties movies featured dense tones, I thought the colors of Vacation looked surprisingly positive. The film featured a bright palette, and the hues consistently came across as reasonably vivid and dynamic.
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. All of this added up to a solid “B”.
I also felt pretty pleased with the DTS-HD MA 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.
How did the 2013 release compare to the original Blu-ray from 2010? I’d be hard-pressed to establish any differences between the two. I suspect both are identical here, and if they’re not, they’re extremely close.
The “30th Anniversary Edition” of Vacation repeats the extras from the prior Blu-ray, restores the trailer from the 20th Anniversary DVD, and adds a new documentary. The set opens with an introduction from Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid, and producer Matty Simmons.
This lasts a whopping 44 seconds and is cute but extremely insubstantial. (It also seems odd to be welcomed to a 20th Anniversary release when it’s now been 30 years.)
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, we find a new addition called Inside Story: National Lampoon’s Vacation. The one-hour, 24-minute, 49-second piece includes comments from Ramis, Chase, Hall, Barron, Simmons, production assistant Trevor Albert, location managers Sam Mercer and Bill Borden, studio executive Mark Canton, first AD Robert P. Cohen, casting director Susan Arnold, animal trainer Jules Sylvester, director of photography Victor J. Kemper, stunt coordinator Dick Ziker, and actors Jane Krakowski, Beverly D’Angelo, Christie Brinkley, Eugene Levy, Christopher Jackson, Miriam Flynn, Mickey Jones, John Diehl, and James Keach.
The show looks at the project’s origins and development, story/character topics, cast and performances, sets and locations, vehicles, and various complications along the way.
Though “Inside Story” follows a path that generally tracks the Griswolds’ journey, it flits around a lot and tends toward a hyperactive pace. This can be tiring at times – it can’t sit still for more than a millisecond – but the show does manage a good amount of information. While I wish it’d slow down at times, I think we learn enough here to make this a worthwhile documentary.
Over the last 30 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 Blu-ray delivers generally positive picture and audio along with a few decent bonus materials. This is a good purchase for those who only own earlier DVDs, but it doesn’t warrant a double-dip for those who possess the 2010 Blu-ray; the new documentary is enjoyable but no picture or audio upgrades occur.
To rate this film visit the 20th Anniversay Edition review of NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION