It’s hard to imagine that it’s been 20 years since the Griswald family packed up the Family Truckster and stumbled their way halfway across the country to Wally World.Truth be told, I am not much of a Chevy Chase fan. I often find his buffoon act trying and old, but the Vacation films are a notable exception. With today’s political correctness it’s doubtful that the family dog would meet such a horribly funny end (Before you write to tell me how cruel I am, I own a Siberian husky who is loved no matter how much trouble she gets into). I suspect the equally hilarious treatment of the dearly departed Aunt Edna might not cause quite as much stir. I live near the “mouse house” in Florida, so the tourism jokes work exceptionally well on me. Harold Ramis has a reputation for uneven comedy, and Vacation fits that pattern all the way. While much of the film plays like a Saturday Night Live skit, the film can be very funny when it hits.
Vacation deserves better than the simple mono track provided on this “special” edition disc. I know they didn’t use surround or even much stereo 20 years ago, but many films have benefited by the upgrade to at least a 2.0 track. Vacation is one of them. The problem is that when your theatre system is calibrated properly, mono tracks don’t drive the system efficiently. The dialogue is certainly clean and clear, but there’s nothing dynamic here.
Vacation is presented in its original theatrical release of 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and the print is a clean one. I noticed no specks or film artifacts to mar the picture. Colors are pretty much mid-80’s standard and well preserved. Blacks are mostly grainy but not a vital component to the film as most of it is shot in sunny exterior. The fact is some of this cinematography was first rate stuff for the time. The Arizona vistas are still quite beautifully preserved.
Once again I would expect a “20th Anniversary Edition” to have more stuff. The only extra of any real value happens to be an outstanding audio commentary with most of the cast and Harold Ramis. Unfortunately they were not all together and there are quiet moments during the track. You do get some great info on the original ending of the film and some funny outtake moments.
Beyond the commentary you’ll find a useless and short introduction by Chase, Ramis, and Mart Simmons. “The Interactive Family Truckster” is an odd bonus. The menu features a shot of the Truckster going off the road. If you highlight certain parts of the car you’ll see very short segments on Christie Brinkly, the Truckster, and a jukebox of the songs sung on the road in the film. A trailer and text based info on cast and crew finish the road trip.
Chevy Chase might be the star, but the underused Randy Quaid steals the best material. Studio execs noticed this as well and Quaid would figure more prominently in future road trips. Vacation is one of those films you either get or you don’t. So if you liked it 20 years ago, this DVD is probably as good as it will get. If you didn’t like the film, then hit the “Holiday Road”.