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30 Things We Learned from the ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation’ Commentary

It’s not unusual for the first in a franchise to be the best, and that’s certainly the case with the ‘Vacation’ films.
National Lampoons Vacation
By  · Published on April 6th, 2012

Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work, then share the most interesting parts. In this edition, Kate Erbland hits the road with family and baggage in tow as she listens to the talent-filled commentary track for National Lampoon’s Vacation.

Holiday rooooooooooad.

Come on. You know the words. It’s that time of year when the weather is starting to heat up, families are planning their yearly excursions to the greater parts of the world, and the highways of this great nation of ours are going to be filled with Family Trucksters. What better time than to visit the original cross-country, family quest for fun? That’s right. We’re talking about National Lampoon’s Vacation.

Not only was I shocked to find there was a commentary track on this 20th Anniversary Special Edition, but it contains director Harold Ramis, producer Matty Simmons, and most of the Griswold clan, Cousin Eddie included. Sadly Beverly D’Angelo didn’t make this trip, but our hearts and prayers are with her. As for the rest of the tribe, they give us more than our fair share of Vacation trivia, insight into the filming, and overall good times that are had by all. As Clark W. Griswold once told his son, Rusty, getting there is half the fun, so let’s get there already, shall we?

Praise Marty Moose.

Vacation (1983)

Commentators: Harold Ramis (director), Chevy Chase (actor), Matty Simmons (producer), Dana Barron (actor), Anthony Michael Hall (actor), Randy Quaid (actor),

Best in Commentary

“I can’t tell you how many thousands of people have said to me in these 20 years, ‘Just like my family.’” – Matty Simmons

“Basically we figured this was the story of a dad who gets two weeks off a year and overcompensates like a mad man to give his family he didn’t give them for the rest of the year.” – Harold Ramis

“He’s not a very good person. No, he’s not a good husband or even a good person, but he’s enough like people really are that we see ourselves in it.” – Harold Ramis

“This is all very funny physical stuff if I may say so my damn self.” – Chevy “By God” Chase

Final Thoughts

The Vacation commentary is fine, nothing spectacular, but it’s all interesting and consistent. Harold Ramis was clearly recorded separately from the others, who were all recorded together. It’s always nice hearing cast members lending commentary to a film they all got along on. Of course, Chevy Chase’s ego doesn’t just bleed into the commentary, it’s splashed in there every time he opens his mouth. He never passes up an opportunity to point out his comedic timing or the reactions he gives, basically applauding himself the whole time. It’s hard to blame the guy, though. He really is damn funny. Still, it’s interesting and sometimes a little disheartening to hear someone you love feeding their own ego.

Also it would have been amazing to get Beverly D’Angelo on there and have a single commentary track with just the family, preferably in character. Regardless, small issues aside – as small as Chase’s ego could possibly be – the Vacation commentary track is a fun one to enjoy for anyone who is a fan of the movie. Or if you’re a fan of Chevy Chase. Or if you’re Chevy Chase himself. Or Dan Harmon. Maybe not so much Dan Harmon.

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