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Even after twenty-seven years, NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION ($25) remains 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 Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation is perfectly agreeable, and as I noted in my review of the Twentieth Anniversary DVD, the movie itself has never been a visual stunner. However, NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION wasn’t a large budget affair, so production limitations are the reason why the film appears somewhat uneven in high definition. Bright daylight sequences always look best and display the sharpest most detailed images, while nighttime and interiors shots can be softer, grainier and less defined. Dimensionality is lighting dependent, with the bright outdoor sequences coming up the strongest. Colors are usually bright, very nicely saturated and rendered without flaws. Blacks are pretty accurate, as are the whites. Contrast is good most of the time, while shadow detail is just what one should expect from an early eighties comedy. The elements from which NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION has been transferred appear quite clean. Grain is present in the image, but is not excessive.

NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Although lossless, the sound is a bit shoehorned by the monaural production. I am still a big fan of Lindsey Buckingham’s theme song Holiday Road and wish that it could have been a bit more sonically polished on this release. Overall, the soundtrack gets the job done without bells and whistles. Sound effects aren’t always wholly convincing, but are rendered well enough for this type of comedy. Dialogue is crisp and completely understandable. French and Spanish Dolby Digital monaural tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a couple of extras that have been ported from the DVD release. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid, Dana Barron and Anthony Michael Hall, plus director Harold Ramis and producer Matty Simmons. Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid and Matty Simmons also provided a brief and mildly amusing introduction to the movie for the Twentieth Anniversary DVD, which is carried over here.

Even after twenty-seven years, NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION is still a whole heck of a lot of fun. The Blu-ray presentation is solid and certain to please fans. Recommended.


National Lampoon's Vacation [Blu-ray] (1983)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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