National Lampoon’s Vacation” came out 37 years ago this week. And while maybe it’s dated humor and dad comedy to some, to me it still holds up beautifully. It inspired my brother and sister and me on a cross country trip when I was in college. And it resonated years later when I was driving my family to Hilton Head. Particularly when my angelic Irish Rose was napping in the passenger seat and I was exchanging looks with a woman in a convertible only to be hit with the sudden realization I was a dad in a minivan with two kids in the back watching “Pirates of the Caribbean” on the DVD system. And therefore, ridiculous.
The original ”Vacation” was based on an article by John Hughes about a family trip he took as a kid that ran in National Lampoon in 1979, and he wrote the screenplay. Though he changed the perspective from the kids to the dad trying to keep his shit together as everything goes sideways on him. It was peak Hughes and director Harold Ramis. Peak Chevy Chase. Peak MILFish Beverly D’Angelo. And Christy Brinkley at the absolute height of her powers.
Fun fact: The original ending involved the Griswold’s kidnapping Roy Wally’s family, but it didn’t test well. So they reshot a new one, paid John Candy a million bucks for an extended cameo as the park security guard and recycled the original ending in “Christmas Vacation.” And Anthony Michael Hall grew four inches in the meantime, which is why he’s taller than his mom at the end after being shorter than her in the beginning and middle. Still though, a comedy classic.
And what the hell, while I’m in the mood, here’s a bonus. The classic freak out that every dad has had at least once on every road trip in the history of families. Enjoy.