Director: Harold Ramis
Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Randy Quiad, Anthony Michael Hall, Dana Barron, Christie Brinkley
Released: July 29, 1983
This was a favorite of my family's as we had it on VHS (and it was from a recording on TV with a blank tape!) and we watched it so many times that many parts of the movie were scratched and, also, since it had been recorded from TV, there would be parts that wouldn't be recorded, because who ever recorded it (my dad?) always stopped the tape when the commercials came on and sometimes didn't start recording in enough time when the movie came back on because usually there was a 3 second delay. What the hell were we thinking taping movies off of TV? That was the stupidest way to watch a movie. However, back in those days, we didn't have DVDs so I didn't know what I was missing and was still able to enjoy the movie and always got a kick out of it even when I was watching it for the 20th time!
This movie is the first of a series involving the Griswolds - Clark (played by Chevy Chase); his wife, Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo); and their two kids, Rusty and Audrey who are always played by different actors in each movie, but in this one they are played by a pre-Breakfast Club Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron who, aside from this movie, is probably best known for playing Nikki, just one of Brandon's many girlfriends on Beverly Hills, 90210. She was in season 3 and had the abusive ex-boyfriend played by David Arquette.
The family lives in Chicago (as many movies that were written by John Hughes take place!) and have a trip planned to Los Angeles to visit Wally World, a large theme park with the longest theme song ever. Seriously, it really is. They were singing it in the car and it wasn't something simple and catchy like "M-I-C-K-E-Y....", but instead it just goes on and on. Everyone wants to fly out there, but Clark thinks it would be more fun to drive because "half the fun is getting there!" He has the route mapped out on the "computer" (and I put that word in quotations because I have a hard time calling something as outdated as they showed a computer!)
Their station wagon is packed with suitcases and there is no room for anyone to lie down or stretch out. I could not imagine being in a car for that long and having to sit in the backseat next to my brother. My family did take a trip from Omaha to Virginia Beach in our station wagon way back when I was little and we even had my grandma along with us (luckily nothing happened to her like Aunt Edna!), but I remember hardly anything about this trip, especially the traveling part. They are barely out of Chicago and Clark is encouraging everyone to sing along with him. After a while his kids put on their headphones when they can't stand it anymore. I know that would drive me crazy!
The Griswold family have all kinds of adventures on their way to California, including everyone falling asleep in the car - including Clark who is driving!; Clark trying to impress a beautiful blonde woman (played by Christie Brinkley) driving a red convertible he keeps seeing throughout the trip; making a stop in Kansas to see Cousin Eddie and his family (one of his daughters is played by a very young Jane Krakowski!); having to put up with Aunt Edna who is joining them on the ride until they reach Arizona: accidently killing Aunt Edna's dog; and having to deal with Edna's body when she dies. They also lose their money, Clark gets lost in the desert when he crashes the car and it won't work, and Ellen catches him skinny-dipping with the beautiful blonde in an outdoor hotel pool.
By the time they reach California, Ellen and the kids do not even care about Wally World anymore and beg Clark to turn the car around and drive home, but he refuses, saying how much they've had to put up with just to get to Wally World and how they were going to go there and have some effing fun! When they finally reach the destined theme park early the next morning, the parking lot is empty and Clark exclaims, "First ones here!" as he parks as far away from the entrance as possible. This is so when they leave the park at the end of the day, they can easily get out. They start running to the entrance and the theme song to Chariots of Fire starts playing. Now when I saw this movie, I had never seen Chariots of Fire, much less ever heard of it, so I always associate that music with this movie! I also associate that song with running in slow motion and throwing my hands in the air...
When they reach the entrance, they are greeted by a statue of Marty the Moose, the mascot of Wally World who apologetically tells them through a speaker box that the park is closed for two weeks for repairs. Clark buys a BB gun and kidnaps the security guard (played by John Candy) and makes him take them on all the rides until the police notify Roy Wally (the Walt Disney of Wally World).
This movie is hilarious, but I would have to say my favorite from the Griswold movies is still Christmas Vacation which I reviewed as my last Christmas movie.