It Came From the ’80s: National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

June 21, 2011

by Sheri White

I didn’t see this movie in the theater; my brother and I rented it when it was available on video, about a year or so later.  Renting a movie back then was both cool and frustrating – cool because you could watch a movie without commercials in your own house, and frustrating because half the time either the store was out of the movie you wanted or it jammed in your VCR.

My family was on the cutting edge of technology, let me tell you – we didn’t have cable yet, but we did get a Betamax, top-loading with a remote.  Awesome.

My parents were strict, and my brother and I had to be careful of what we brought home.  No R-rated movies, nothing with sex or nudity. That left out a lot of good movies.  We resorted to getting those movies when we knew our parents would be out.

Somehow, though, Tommy, my step-dad, always, ALWAYS would walk in at just the wrong time and we’d be busted.  Really, Vacation is pretty tame compared to some movies, but there’s one line that’s pretty brutal, and that’s just when Tommy walked in.

“I think you’re all fucked in the head!” says dad Clark Griswold to his family after they decide they just want to turn around and go home after a series of crazy mishaps on their road trip.  Dave and I cringed and slouched down on the couch as Tommy looked at us sternly. Caught once again.

Vacation is an absolute riot.  From dragging the poor dog behind for miles to Aunt Edna dying during the trip and getting tied to the roof to holding up the security guard at gunpoint and making him run the rides for the Griswolds, it’s non-stop laughing.

Everything that can go wrong on a trip does.  But Clark can deal with that, because there’s a beautiful blond in a red Ferrari who flirts with him every time they pass her by.  When they all end up in the same hotel room, a frustrated and angry Clark seeks her out but realizes he loves his wife and family.

Dave and I didn’t really get punished when we rented stuff we weren’t supposed to, but somehow just Tommy’s disappointed look at us was enough.  But not enough to stop us from doing it; we’d get over it pretty quickly.  Come on, I don’t think R-rated movies were going to corrupt us at that point.

In a week, I’m taking my three girls on a road trip from Maryland to Texas. Wish us luck that we don’t have the same kind of misfortunes the Griswolds did.

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