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 and photos © Warner Bros.
A recent weekend turned into a “Written by John Hughes” fest – as on Saturday Darlin Husband and I watched the excellent Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). Ferris is 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 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. This is 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 films, Hemsworth does distract you from how bad a film is.
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 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 gittering’s pages…
Today, I intend to tell you more about National Lampoon’s European Vacation. This is the second of the Vacation original films and by far the best. Made in the 1980s, I loved watching this movie again now as an adult. This time Darlin Husband helped to point out the cameos from the credits.
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 depending on your point of view.
Then the movie starts with a( fictional) quiz show named Pig in a Poke in which the Griswalds are competing. This scene 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). This is 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. If you get my drift…
On arriving at their first destination, London, the Griswalds meet more familiar British television comics. These are in blink and you’ll miss them appearances as they stay in one of London’s less salubrious hotels. Other well known faces include Robbie Coltrane, Maureen Lipman and Mel Smith.
In later scenes where the family go sightseeing, Clark drives on the wrong side of the road. He causes accidents this way and also at well-known landmarks. In these scenes. 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. Idle’s bike-riding character is covered in blood from head to toe. Idle looks like he’s been attacked 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, England is left in ruins as the Griswalds move on to Paris.
In Paris, their video camera gets stolen. There the family annoy the local residents. Clark’s 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 on to Germany – to visit relatives – and Rome, for more comic scenes and where the Griswald parents’ recent shenanigans catch up with them…
This comedy film is well written by John Hughes. Hughes is 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 storylines.
As ever Hughes can 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 Chase as this paternal character and D’Angelo as his wife Ellen in many scenes together. Their chemistry as a couple is more evident than in some real-life couples starring in the same movie. She even calls Clark by an affectionate nickname, Sparky. I was happy to see this on-screen pairing lasted for the whole Vacation film franchise. This includes the recent spin-off, Vacation (2015).
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. Or her bickering with her family. Rusty has problems that many male viewers can relate to. My Darlin Husband felt empathetic to Rusty.
Now, of course, I was more empathetic with Clark and Ellen, as a step-parent 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.
It was also a thrill to add two more faces through Darlin Husband’s observations. Much of the humour only gently ridicules the countries involved about their culture, dress and 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. This pair hoped to continue the franchise together. The pair began to develop a storyline where the Griswalds are holidaying in Australia.
So let’s take a trip with this pair for the reboot the Griswalds deserve over that spin-off disaster. This with the comic talents of a Monty Python writer and a Saturday Night Live entertainer 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: /10
Monty Python Blogathon 2016 No 19
This film was written as part of the Monty Python Blogathon run by Movie Movie Blog Blog. Other references to Monty Python are HERE about the song Finland, Finland, Finland. The recent Vacation spin-off has Chevy Chase and Beverly D’ Angelo. Mel Smith stars in Restless Natives. Eric Idle in Yellowbeard is featured HERE. Robbie Coltrane stars with Eric Idle in Nuns on the Run. Dana Hill in Shoot the Moon. Maureen Lipman appears in Educating Rita.