National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985)

Main Features No 55

Hit the Road Clark!

 

The Griswald family, headed by Clark and Ellen travel to Europe with their kids Rusty and Audrey. 

 

National Lampoon’s European Vacation – Trailer, Warner Bros., http://www.youtube.com and photogarphs © Warner Bros.

So a recent weekend turned into a “Written by John Hughes” fest – as on the Saturday Darlin’ Husband and I watched the excellent Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986),  with Ferris being the role Matthew Broderick was born to play. So far (touch wood) no sign of a remake, a sequel or a reboot in development. Then on the Sunday, the Hughes theme continued with National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985). The more avid readers of my reviews will remember how much I raved about this particular film and the original movie series as compared to the recent reboot, Vacation (2015). Although a great cast, I can only remember that Chris Hemsworth’s part stole the show. But then in comparison to most actors Hemsworth does distract you from their obvious charms. Recently I watched The Night Manager (2016) with Tom Hiddleston ie Loki, Thor (Hemsworth)’s screen brother. For the first time I noticed what a lovely voice he had but as I hadn’t noticed it before, I think it was due to the Hemsworth effect. But enough on Hemsworth or this will have to move to my gitterings pages…

Today I intend to tell you more about National Lampoon’s European Vacation. This being the second of the Vacation original quadrilogy and by far the best. Made in the 1980s, I loved watching this movie again now as an adult, this time with Darlin’ Husband helping pointing out the cameos from the credits alone. The film starts with the memorable title theme song, Holiday Road sung by Lindsey Buckingham which gets stuck in your head for years. This song could easily be recalled as one of the most loved and most remembered film tracks of this time. Or the most irritating dependant on your point of view. Then the movie starts with a mock quiz show named Pig in a Poke in which the Griswalds are competing.  This along with the opening credits showing their character’s passports being stamped were both lovely original ways to reintroduce the family from the first movie.

The Griswalds win an all expenses holiday to Europe on the show, taking in London, Paris, West Germany and Rome. The kids want to stay home. Their daughter, Audrey (Dana Hill) has a boyfriend, and so the 1980s familiar faces begin. Her boyfriend is played by Ralph Macchio’s adversary in The Karate Kid (1984), a cameo Darlin’ Husband recognised immediately, and a cameo which I hadn’t noticed before. Before leaving for Europe, father Clark (Chevy Chase) records a film on his home video camera of Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) sexing up a song from their college days with things appearing to get raunchy afterwards.

On arriving in their first destination, London, the Griswalds meet more familiar British television comics in blink and you’ll miss them appearances as they stay in one of London’s less salubrious hotels. Well known faces include Robbie Coltrane, Maureen Lipman and Mel Smith. In later scenes where the family go sight-seeing,  Clark drives on the wrong side of the road. He causes a number of accidents. In these scene,  two faces are instantly recognisable for those who liked the Monty Python guys and followed their careers. The first is Ballard Berkeley – the Major from John Cleese’s comedy, Fawlty Towers (1975-79) and Cleese’s fellow Monty Python star, Eric Idle. Both literally bump into the family with Idle’s bike riding character covered in blood from head to toe. Idle looks like he’s been ravaged by The American Werewolf in London (1981). However in a polite English way he claims it is that it’s only a “flesh wound”. This phrase will be familiar to Monty Python aficionados as a line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). Idle reappears later in the film.

After a visit to Stonehenge and England is left in ruins the Griswalds move on to Paris where their video camera gets stolen. There the family annoy the local residents and son, Rusty (Jason Lively) tries to chat up the local ladies. These attempts are sadly unsuccessful with his well-meaning father throwing away his chances. The family then move onto Germany – to visit relatives – and Rome, for more comic scenes and where the Griswald’s parents’ recent shenanigans catch up with them…

This comedy film is well written by John Hughes, a man usually synonymous with teenage angst and their lives prominent in the script, with parents in smaller roles.  In this film, every member of the family has equal screen time with appropriate story lines. As ever Hughes is able to write effective, empathetic scenes for each character, a skill he would use to great effect in films such as Pretty in Pink (1986) and The Breakfast Club (1985). Clark as ever is like every father in that he hopes to show his family a fun time, that they won’t forget. It was lovely seeing this character and his wife Ellen in many scenes together as their chemistry as a couple is more evident than some real life couples starring in the same movie. She even calls Clark by an affectionate nickname, Sparky. Audrey reminded me of experiences only some girls will understand, be it her coping with her breakup with her boyfriend when she is on holiday and her bickering with her family. Rusty has problems that many male viewers can relate to. Now of course I was more empathetic with Clark and Ellen, as a step parent in that I hope my stepchildren enjoy their holiday, experience some culture and see some sights which they will treasure and remember.

It was lovely seeing so many familiar faces as British cameos and a thrill to add two more faces through Darlin’ Husband’s observations.  Much of the humour only gently ridicules the countries involved in relation to their culture, dress and their language. The landmarks in the film are still standing, just like the film has stood well despite being made in 1985. I read that Chase and Eric Idle became good friends during the filming of this movie, and hoped to continue with them beginning a story line where the Griswalds are holidaying in Australia. So let’s take a trip with this pair for the reboot the Griswalds deserve, with the comic talents of a Monty Python writer and a Saturday Night Live entertainer, it would be a sparky, fun-filled film. As sadly, more recently no bright spark thought of this.

Weeper Rating:   😦  /10

Handsqueeze Rating:  :-)   /10

Hulk Rating: ‎  mrgreen ‎/10

Bonus Trailer: Bonus Official Trailer

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2016 Blogathons Joined No 19

Blogathons Joined

The Monty Python Blogathon

This film was written as part of the Monty Python Blogathon run by Movie Movie Blog Blog. Other references to Monty Python are HERE in relation to the song Finland, Finland, Finland. The recent Vacation (2015) reboot is reviewed HERE.

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