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Crammed inside a Metallic Pete Truckster and hopped up on forced optimism, thirty years ago the Griswold Family trekked across the country in hopes of seeing Wally World. Along the way, they committed felonies, lost several members of their crew and almost strangled each other. In some ways, their journey feels a bit dated. From that horrendous station wagon to the soundtrack to the way director Harold Ramis frames the movie, much of it is very clearly a product of the 1980s, but in all of the important ways, the hate they wield for their redneck cousins, the smell that lingers out of the backseat and the unyielding sense of frustration, National Lampoon’s Vacation is eternal.
To celebrate Vacation’s 30th anniversary, the studio decided to release a brand new Blu-ray edition this morning. It offers all kinds of bells and whistles including a spectacular, hilarious and lengthy behind-the-scenes documentary that outlines how the product went from one of John Hughes’ many brilliant ideas to actually becoming a film. More importantly, it also contains said film, and that’s always a reason to celebrate. So, in honor of 30 great years, in honor of what might come next, here are five hysterical and brilliant Vacation moments…
1. Making Kool-Aid
The entire extended sequence with the redneck relatives is hysterical. From Cousin Eddie offering Clark the beer he’s already been drinking to Aunt Edna’s first vicious glares, it’s pretty much all comedy gold, but when it comes to pure shock factor, nothing tops Cousin Vicki, played by a young Jane Krakowski of 30 Rock fame, making Kool-Aid in a horribly ill-fitting shirt by sticking her hand inside the jar and swishing it around. The process is beyond unsanitary, and it lets Clark know exactly what he’s in for.
We all have relatives that have a different way of doing things, and we’ve all had moments where we’ve been weirded out by their bullshit. Thank God most of us have never encountered anything this unseemly, however.
2. The Dead Dog
Dinky sucks. He pisses on sandwiches and bites people’s ankles. His most overt personality quirk is his self-centered unruliness, and he generally behaves like a beast that hasn’t been properly raised. That shouldn’t shock anyone considering Aunt Edna doesn’t exactly come across like the world’s most responsible pet owner. That being said, the poor guy still doesn’t deserve the fate he gets. Attached to the back of the car, he does his damndest to keep up for a few miles, but eventually, he runs out of internal gas and gets dragged to his death, setting up the above confrontation with the emotional police officer.
Had they shown the dog when the car first started moving, the scene likely would have been too graphic to take. Since they don’t, it’s just on the right side of the line in a stomach-churning, uproarious kind of way.
3. The Flying Car
No matter how much men grow up, there’s always an immature bozo somewhere deep inside us. We know it’s ridiculous. When the kids are around, most of us do everything we can to hide it, but occasionally, it comes out, which is why it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Clark is very proud of how far he jumped his car. Standing atop his trashed automobile like a conquering hero, he proudly repeats Rusty’s 50 Yards claim and basks in the idea of bragging about that feat later.
The car jump is also a great insight into Clark’s eternal optimism. His vehicle is broken. His family is pissed off. He knows he must walk through the sand an unknown number of miles to get help, and yet, he’s still extremely pleased with himself. It’s idiotic, and it’s also what makes him loveable.
4. The Less Than Enthusiastic Prayer
Clark isn’t exactly the world’s most devout Christian. More pressingly, he was never even a fan of Aunt Edna. A strong case could be made that he downright hated her and is happy she’s gone, but as a good family man and a husband who at least tries, he does his best to offer up a prayer to convince the Big Guy Upstairs to let Edna into his kingdom. At first, it comes off as at least vaguely genuine, but the longer it goes, the more he veers off into wild directions, eventually referencing Moab and breaking into some kind of monk-like chant.
Hollywood history is filled with plenty of scenes of non-religious people attempting to pray. Clark’s not so genuine plea stands above the rest because of his basic contempt of the entire process. He couldn’t give less of a shit, and to be perfectly frank, he doesn’t really care if his own family knows it.
5. The Epic Speech
We’ve all been there before. We’ve all been wrist-deep in some stupid plan and mentally considered turning back. After watching family members die, crashing the car, getting robbed and spending days at each other’s throats, it’s only natural the Griswold Family would want to quit, but something things are too important not to finish. Some journeys have to be completed, and this voyage to Wally World is one of them, goddamnit. The Griswold family is on quest for fun, and they will have fun, even if more people die in the process and even if they have to drop multiple f-bombs and give themselves an R-rating.
Move over, Al Pacino. No one motivates like Chevy Chase.