Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Yes, Really with Wilde.Dash #6: National Lampoon's Vacation

The usual caveat: Believe it or not, for someone totally obsessed with movies, I do a lot of selective editing, snubbing, and ignoring. That is to say: there are a whole lot of well-known movies I've actually never bothered to watch. I've spent a lot of time hunting down obscurities and not quite as much time seeing the movies you've probably been watching since you were 10 years old (for example: I decided maybe I should watch Saving Private Ryan in Winter 2008). Because of this, in conversation I frequently have this interaction. Me: "I've never actually seen that movie" You: "What? I've seen a movie you haven't?" Me: "Yes" You: "How have you not seen that movie?" Me: "I never wanted to" You: "Really?" Me: "Yes, really." Thus: Yes, Really with Wilde.Dash a near weekly feature in which I fill in my pop culture education, watch all the boring basics, and let you know whether or not I decided they were worth my time. Get it? Got it? Good.
It's that time of the year.  Bipolar (I mean positively manic) Midwestern weather, Cadbury eggs, gefilte fish, and that glorious gap in the midst of the shit storm: spring break.  Ah yes, spring break.  MTV changes its programming (now featuring more Situations), millions of high school and college kids embark on coming of age adventures of mythic, embarrassing proportions.  And I...well, I don't do anything but regroup.  In college, the week off was my chance to try to catch up and get ahead of the game.  In graduate school, it's the same.  So I disappear, I do a lot of writing, I calm my frazzled nerves with hours spent in partial hibernation or in darkened rooms with glowing screens. My vacation isn't really even a staycation, it's just a necessary preservation of sanity.  Which, of course, is a lot better than going on any vacation with the family Griswold.  

If you're a regular reader of Love & Squalor, you may have read my list of Christmas films and noted that Christmas Vacation was near the top.  You'd follow that logic through and say, alright, how has someone who loves that hot mess avoided the original Vacation?  Then you'd call me a liar, glove slap me and challenge me to a duel.  At this point I'd be forced to confess that yes, I'm a bit of a liar.  I've seen National Lampoon's Vacation before this week: on TV. Edited. With commercials. When I was about 10. Probably missing the first half hour.  So, break out your weapon of choice if you must, but I'm going to stand by that not counting.  It's the same thing as me saying I saw Friday the 13th Pt. II when I was 5 when in reality I saw the first few minutes on a family friend's premium cable after the already disturbing Return to Oz, then slipped into a nerve induced tizzy.  Sometimes when you're five, sinister music is all it takes to know you've gone somewhere you don't belong. Where was I? Griswolds. You don't want to travel with that family.  I mean, most of them are alright.  You can't fault Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall), Audrey (Dana Barron), or Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo) for the missteps and small accidents that occur on the road...but you can't take Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) anywhere.

I'm pretty sure that Clark and Chevy Chase are the same person. I also have this theory about TracyMorgan and Tracy Jordan. Jordan and Clark are just slightly exaggerated versions of Morgan and Chase. Don't pretend they're not. It's not something you can lie about. Besides, you're a terrible liar and we all know Chevy Chase is a balloon filled with schemes and half-baked ideas.  I mean, I have no evidence, but I read Live From New York and I know what his former SNL cast mates think of him.  With my slim knowledge and the ability to make an ass out of u and me, we can safely conclude that if a busty blonde pulls up next to his family Maserati (or whatever it is the real Chevy Chase drives), Chevy Chase (especially 80's model Chevy Chase) will likely give her the eye and run the car off the road careening towards the Grand Canyon. Truth.  Another way Chevy Chase is like Tracy Morgan?  They both work opposite Jane Krakowski, are prominently featured on NBC Thursday night television.  Maybe we can go one step further and say that Tracy Morgan is Chevy Chase, or vice versa.  Maybe at night they smoke cigars on a veranda and consider the piles of wealth they'll make off DVD sales and the next step of their EGOT plan.  

Speaking of Jane Krakowski, I always want to call her Elaine Vassel.  Then I have to remind myself that she's not Elaine, that was just her character on Ally McBeal.  Elaine invented the facebra and accused people of being snappish. Jane Krakowski did a lot of Broadway.  Clearly, different people.  In Vacation, she shows up as Cousin Vicki and utters the line that made me really distracted.  See, Cousin Vicki is a little bit backwoods.  She's Britney Spears in a trailer on a farm with a bag of weed. Sometimes she makes out with her dad.  Say what now?  Gross. Speaking as someone long familiar with Cousin Eddie as the sort of likable mooch loser at Christmas Vacation, I got the heeby jeebies, and sat with a grimace on my face for the next couple scenes.  Really Cousin Eddie, for shame. You already play into stereotypes and cliches so very much...

That was a tangent.  Then again, this whole thing is a tangent.  The whole movie, really, is a tangent.  Vacation is a comedy about a road trip to a Disney-esque amusement park centered around Walley the cartoon moose.  Clark's been planning it diligently and the road trip that will bond them as a family is set to go off without a hitch.  As is the case with road trip films, though, Murphy's Law is in full effect.  As soon as the Griswold's get on the road anything that can go wrong does.  Cash depletion, car trouble, detours, unexpected deaths; the Griswold family fun time makes the family in Little Miss Sunshine look well adjusted.  The difference, of course, is that the Griswolds never get down and out about it.  They're peppy and optimistic, Clark in particular.  He's so intent on making the most of his two-week vacation that nothing, absolutely nothing will stop him.  He'll do whatever it takes to make sure his family gets what they came for.  Even if that means waving a gun around to get a ride on a rollercoaster.

There are ways in which we all know this feeling, have all been on this vacation.  Who doesn't have a memory of bickering in a hotel room before getting back in the car with a parent saying "well, we're going, and you're going to like it, goddamnit"?  Nobody. That's who.  Nobody.  Even if you never went anywhere as a child, you experienced this very moment.  That's what Vacation is.  It's a tale of obsession.  Of madness. Of what happens when having a good time becomes so important that you don't even realize that you're not having a good time at all.  Vacation is a solid comedy that makes the most of its cast. It's easy to overlook the slapstick in favor of the universality of its satirical moments and the exaggerated familiarity of its plot.  Yet, it makes me never want to go on a road trip again.  Thus, on spring break, as I sit at my desk and regroup, I'm on more of a vacation than the Griswolds.  This is a good thing.    

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...