I have a weird past with this franchise, as I didn’t grow up watching any of them, at least fully, but I did see bits and pieces from all of them, therefore, they all blended together for me. But I know it’s considered one of the most classical comedies in the USA, so I thought I might as well fill in some gaps in my “movie education”. And… yeah. It’s good enough, but National Lampoon’s Vacation definitely must have been funnier when it was released.
Let me explain – for me, comedies from (mainly) the 80’s can be split into two categories – either they still work, or they don’t. I know, shocking right? But I am being serious – I can enjoy bad, cheesy action movies from the 80’s with no issues. I can enjoy dramas, basically anything from that decade with no issues, but comedy is such a specific genre, that it either works no matter the decade you are watching it in, or you are just watching a movie, that sometimes can be kind of funny, but most of the time, you are just there to see how the story unfolds. The latter unfortunately described this film.
I am not saying it’s a bad movie by any means, or that you won’t laugh. I am also not comparing it against comedies made nowadays, because that would be just unfair. What I am doing is comparing this film with others from that area (such as Ghostbusters (1984), Airplane! (1980, my review here) or The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)) where all of them are different sub-genres of comedy, but they all still work within what they are. National Lampoon’s Vacation is trying to be a “family road-trip” comedy and I think it works good enough. That’s the main issue with this movie for me – most of the jokes seemed like were they were “alright”, but not one made me genuinely burst out laughing. They almost felt like it’s all setup, but barely any punchlines.
I was still kind of enjoying the movie, don’t get me wrong, but you do want to get some laughs out of a comedy movie. And this is where this film failed. Also, it tries to have the “heart” of family comedy, but it never worked for me too. All characters are borderline stupid or sometimes even mean, which should at least by funny, but turns out it doesn’t have to be. Because in this movie, the characters were just there and that was it.
National Lampoon’s Vacation is for me one of those comedies I wish I could have experienced in a theatre, when it opened back in 1983. Because it must have been pretty great. But that’s the thing – I think most people who consider this film to be “great” were brought up on it, so I would question how much the nostalgia comes into their ratings. Because as I have mentioned before, I didn’t grow up on this movie and as a comedy, it didn’t hit me. And as a movie, it was “just” good enough.
I have actually watched the first three of these films and I might be (yet again) in the minority, but it seemed like with each sequel, the movies got slightly better, but I will write about the other ones too. 😉 Overall, National Lampoon’s Vacation is one of those “wild” 80’s comedies, that doesn’t stand the test of time for me and it seems quite tame today. But luckily, it’s fairly watchable as a movie on its own, so even if you are not going to be laughing all the time, it’s not a bad watch per say.
That’s all for this one! Did you see it? What did you think about it? Let me know!
Until next time,