NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION ($20) is one of the most blissfully funny movies about the insanity that is packing up the family and taking them on the road. Chevy Chase stars in NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION as Clark W. Griswold, the average American frazzled dad, who tries to cram an entire year’s worth of quality time with the family into two weeks of non-stop togetherness. This year’s family vacation entails a road trip from Chicago to California’s Wally World theme park, with a few scenic (and not-so-scenic) stopovers across the great American landscape.
From the time the car leaves the garage- Clark, his wife Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo) and their children Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) and Audrey (Dana Barron) encounter one mishap after another, usually stemming from Clark’s increasingly insane quest for the perfect family vacation. Of course, the funniest section of the movie comes when the Griswold’s stop off to visit Ellen’s poor relations- headed up by Cousin Eddie (a scene stealing Randy Quaid). And the hilarity keeps coming when the Griswold’s find themselves transporting two additional passengers- namely Ellen’s dotty old Aunt Edna (Imogene Coca) and her asocial pet dog. The cast of NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION also features Christie Brinkley, John Candy, Eddie Bracken, Brian Doyle-Murray, Miriam Flynn, James Keach, Eugene Levy, Frank McRae, and Jane Krakowski.
Warner Home Video has made NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. All I can say about finally having a wide screen version NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION is- hallelujah, it’s about time! I credit the folks at Warner for producing a really great looking transfer, even if the movie itself isn’t a visual stunner (and twenty years old to boot). The image is usually sharp and rather nicely defined; although there are some parts of the movie that do appear softer than others. Color reproduction is really nice, with much of the movie coming across with pretty vibrant looking colors and no signs of chroma noise or smearing. Blacks are pretty accurate, whites are clean and contrast is good. The film element used for the transfer displays a bit of grain and some age related blemishes, but is otherwise in fine shape. Digital compression artifacts rarely become noticeable.
While NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION comes with a perfectly fine Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack, I would have liked it better if stereo versions of the film’s music could have been dropped into the track. I am a big fan of Lindsey Buckingham’s theme song Holiday Road and wish that it didn’t sound as flat as it does on this presentation. Still, fidelity is respectable for this kind of soundtrack, so the music doesn’t sound particularly compressed. Sound effects aren’t always wholly convincing, but are rendered well enough for a comedy. Dialogue is clean and understandable. Background hiss and surface noise would appear to have been scrubbed away in the mastering process. Spanish, French and Portuguese language tracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, Spanish, French and Portuguese subtitles.
Animation and sound serves to enhance the interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some nice supplements. Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid and producer Matty Simmons are on hand for a brief and mildly amusing introduction to the movie. A Griswold Family Commentary is the highlight of the supplements and features actors Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid, Dana Barron and Anthony Michael Hall, plus director Harold Ramis and Matty Simmons. Suspiciously absent is actress Beverly D’Angelo, but the commentary proves to be informative, in addition to being fun. The Family Truckster Interactive Feature is an interactive picture of the film’s vehicle of choice, which gives one access to various clips from the movie and new interview footage. A theatrical trailer, plus cast & crew listing close out the supplements.
After twenty years, NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION is still a whole heck of a lot of fun. Warner has produced a terrific looking wide screen transfer for the DVD- something that fans have been clamoring for, for years! With the wide screen presentation and the added benefit of the supplements, this is a must have DVD for NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION fans. Recommended.
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