Sequel Saturday: It’s a Long Way Down The Holiday Road, by Mat Bradley-Tschirgi
Next weekend Vacation, the latest film in the Vacation comedy franchise, gets released in theaters. Readers of this column might recall I did an article a few months ago with my impressions on an early trailer of the film. Now, I’m going to look at the four prior theatrical films in the series.
The series started with 1983’s National Lampoon’s Vacation. Directed by Harold Ramis fresh off his success with Caddyshack and based on a short story by John Hughes, National Lampoon’s Vacation does a fine job introducing the Griswold clan as they venture to Walley World. The pacing is a bit slow at times and the climax never provides much of a payoff. Chevy Chase’s finest moment as Clark Griswold in the entire series comes during a scene where he loses it at his family in the car, launching into a rambling monologue expertly punctuated with profanity.
1985 brought us National Lampoon’s European Vacation. Although it has a strong director in Amy Heckerling, the scope of the story is a bit too broad. The Griswold clan wins a gameshow and gets a free trip to Europe. There’s a mishap involving a sex tape, major monuments gets tipped over twice, and the cameos are quite distracting.
Four years later National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation was released. Arguably the best film in the series, Clark Griswold is obsessed with having the best Christmas light setup in town as he has to deal with a gaggle of family members. This may have less diverse set pieces than other flicks in the series, but there’s a lot more heart.
It wasn’t until 1997 when Vegas Vacation came out. Beverly D’Angelo gets her best moments in the series here with her subplot involving a crush on Wayne Newton. The antics are a bit tamer than before (Vegas Vacation is the only film in the series with a PG rating), but there’s a lot of goofy fun to be had with the Las Vegas setting.
The new Vacation has an R rating. It’s been 18 years since a Vacation movie has been in the theaters. It shall be interesting to see if modern audiences respond to a new entry in a classic comedy franchise. One wonders if Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo’s involvement is going to be a mere cameo or something more substantial.