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National Lampoon's Vacation: 20th Anniversary Edition

Next time you find yourself resenting a long car trip, spending time with your family, or being gouged by an entertainment mega-corporation, take a moment to remember the Griswolds — and how very much worse off you could be. You, too, could be stuck in a metallic-pea-green Wagon Queen Family Truckster for a 2,400-mile cross-country drive to Walley World (a very thinly veiled Disneyland), cooped up with your gung-ho dad (Chevy Chase), your wet-blanket mom (Beverly D'Angelo), your nose-picking brother (Anthony Michael Hall), your whiny sister (Dana Barron), and your crabby great-aunt (Imogene Coca). You, too, could have to cope with getting lost in the 'hood, wrecking your car in the desert, and making nice with your white-trash cousins. In other words, you could be on the Griswolds' Vacation from hell. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Harold Ramis's classic 1983 comedy of errors is how well it's held up in the two decades since it hit theaters. Sure, families these days drive SUVs instead of station wagons, and GameBoys and MP3 players make Rusty and Audrey's Atari and Walkmans seem like museum relics, but the core of the film remains intact: Family trips can be a royal pain, and family car trips are a special brand of torture reserved for those who, like Chase's Clark Griswold, truly believe that getting there is half the fun. Chase plays Clark as the ultimate dad, a relentlessly upbeat fellow who really thinks he knows what his family will enjoy, regardless of how often (and volubly) they beg to differ. His determination to enjoy the trip holds up through every obstacle the road throws at him, until he snaps spectacularly in the third act. Chase has never had a better role (with the possible exception of Irwin "Fletch" Fletcher); whether he's asking for directions in a sketchy St. Louis neighborhood with a hopeful, "Excuse me, Homes?" or using a baloney sandwich to flirt with a Ferrari-driving Christie Brinkley, he has Clark's blissful cluelessness nailed. The supporting cast works well, too; Hall and Barron remain the best Rusty and Audrey, hands down, and D'Angelo's pragmatic Ellen is the perfect foil to Clark's unyielding optimism. Randy Quaid has a great part as hard-up Cousin Eddie (yup, that's Ally McBeal's Jane Krakowski as one of his large brood of children), and comedy legend Imogene Coca easily steals her scenes as outspoken Aunt Edna. In short, next time you think you want to get away from it all, give Vacation a spin, and staying home might not seem so bad after all. Warner hasn't exactly gone all-out for the movie's 20th Anniversary Edition DVD, but the disc will do. The new anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) is strong and clear, and the monaural English audio is fine (Spanish, French, and Portuguese mono tracks also are available, as are subtitles in all the same languages). New features include the interactive Family Truckster, which offers a collection of six short bits that range from singing clips to Christie Brinkley interviews. Chase, Quaid, and producer Matty Simmons also recorded a brief video introduction before joining Hall, Barron, and Ramis for an audio commentary. Surprisingly subdued, considering the folks involved, the commentary is nevertheless chatty and offers plenty of production anecdotes. The trailer and a list of principal cast and crew members round out the features. Snap-case.
—Betsy Bozdech



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