National Lampoon’s Vacation (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Warner is continuing to keep its promise on bringing a swath of classic catalog titles to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray for the first time for its 100th anniversary. Continuing on in June is the release of National Lampoon’s Vacation starring Chevy Chase in time for its 40th anniversary. No new features are here, but you do get a brand new transfer and lossless audio. The disc was released to the wild on June 27th. You can order yourself a copy by clicking on the paid Amazon Associates link at the end of the review.



Originally published on Naptown Nerd’s Vacation retrospective on 12/5/2013.

Accompanied by their children (Dana Barron, Anthony Michael Hall), Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) and his wife, Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), are driving from Illinois to a California amusement park. As Clark increasingly fixates on a beautiful woman driving a sports car, the Griswolds deal with car problems and the death of a family member. They reach Los Angeles, but, when Clark worries that the trip is being derailed again, he acts impulsively to get his family to the park.

In our maiden voyage, we follow the Griswold family on their road trip cross country from Illinois to California in hopes of going to Walley World.  On the way, of course, are a few stops.  We start from the acquisition of the car and the preparation the night before.  One man’s desire to spend more time with his family turns into a very comedic nightmare trip from hell.  This classic journey is one of the great all time road trip movies there is.  If you’re a fan of Chevy Chase, as I am, this movie is definitely full of his wonderful quips and snark that we’ve come to enjoy over the years.  But, if you’re a fan, then you’ve definitely seen this movie more than once.

This is the film that also got John Hughes his big start.  He based the screenplay off of a short he wrote for National Lampoon’s magazine called “Vacation ’58”.  They then optioned to put it into a movie.  Originally the film was to have the focus be the teenage children of Clark and Ellen, but once Harold Ramis and Chevy Chase were attached, the focus then became Clark.  Christie Brinkley’s character was even a teenager and supposed to be a interest of Rusty and even that was changed to be Clark’s.

While this movie is held high up, there are a few moments that definitely feel a bit awkward when watching it now (and maybe back then?).  There’s a scene early on when Clark takes the wrong exit and winds up in a ghetto in St. Louis.  A an “extremely dangerous” ghetto with nothing but black people.  I suppose I can see this being humorous to white people of the 80s…maybe not, but today, its an very ugly moment in the film that is supposed to be played for laughs.  It wasn’t the first film to of the era to attempt this kind of story turn, by far.  If you take a look back at the 80s, you’ll find many films that try to evoke fear or laughs by a white person getting lost in the wrong “poor black neighborhood”

The other objectionable thing is Clark’s desire to achieve some infidelity that leads to his constant pursuit of Christie Brinkley’s (what a smokeshow) nameless woman driving a Ferrari.  This all lends itself to a scene where he goes skinny dipping with her in the motel pool, but before anything can happen he realizes the water is freezing and awakens the whole motel, being caught by his whole family.  Showing him extremely nervous about the whole deal doesn’t make it any better.  And to boot it forces Ellen to have to feel like she’s not doing something right and have to overplease her husband when she’s been nothing but submissive and on board with his constant overdone sexual advances the entire trip.  Maybe its how I look at it now as an adult or just that my views have progressed over time, but we’re supposed to then follow and root for Clark following this exploit.  Yes, there’s a lot of dumb and bad stuff Clark does over the course of the film, but this is the only one that is severely detrimental to what is most important to him and to us the audience.  This same type of schtick would be done in a later movie, but handled much more carefully and done in better taste to where it actually does work.

Those are my two gripes with an otherwise hilarious movie.  While there’s many stops on the trip, you can’t go without mentioning stopping at Cousin Eddie’s.  Randy Quaid is a scene stealer and his white trash family.  Quaid commits and you really buy who this guy is.  When he returns in a later film it would almost cement him as the fan favorite character for the entire series.  In this entry we see his house and meet his kids (including the film debut of Jane Krakowski).  They leave us with Aunt Edna, who is just an old complaining louse, and her uncontrollable dog.  Edna ends up passing away during the trip and in some hilarity is tied up to the top of the car and gets left on Ellen’s cousin’s doorstep because he wasn’t home at the time.  However, due to cuts in the film, this is what happened.  Originally, there was supposed to be an insert while they were driving of her fingers moving signifying she was still alive.  The MPAA apparently felt this was too cruel.  Apparently having her dead and just dropped somewhere is better in the eyes of the MPAA.

Speaking of deleted scenes, the original ending (which is evidently lost) was scrapped.  Instead of entering Walley World and forcing John Candy to take them on rides, Clark and Co went to the house of Roy Walley and forced him and his employees to dance and sing the Walley song.  And then the police show up to arrest them.  But…alas!  A twist!  Christie Brinkley rolls up, the daughter of Roy Walley and convinces him to let Clark go.  Payoff!  In the end, the Griswolds fly home, only to find out they are on the wrong flight.  Clark then loses it and hijacks the plane.  This all didn’t work well with test audiences, so they went out and shot the ending we have.  As a benefit we get another SCTV (Canada’s SNL) alum in John Candy appearing.  I think this ending is a bit more satisfying (although I’d love to see the cut one for fan’s sake) as we get to see the theme park in action, since we have waited the whole movie to see it.  Tiny Tunes Adventures did something like this back in the day in a movie where you get all hyped up at this theme park only to have the family go through it via the tram and go home.  Such a let down.  This one has that letdown when they arrive, but at least its short lived and we enter the park.

Despite those two beefs I had, I still think Vacation is kind of one of those “right of passage” movies that need to be first on deck for a film fan when they come of an age that their parents allow them to watch rated R movies.  Its one of those ultimate road trip movies and it displays Chevy Chase at the top of his game.  This movie was a big hit and the characters so enjoyable that its no surprise we went on more adventures with them.  And also…love that poster.  Its a parody of the original Star Wars poster, but its ridiculousness is awesome in its own right.  They used to show this movie on Fox quite a big when I was growing up and I’d always make sure I caught it.  I truly believe while this movie is 30 years old, most of the humor is genuinely timeless and can still work for young people today as its strength lies in the well written familiarity with its characters.  There’s an easy in with this movie be you young or old.


Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are from studio promotional stills, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail National Lampoon’s Vacation arrives on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray with its proper aspect ratio and a very nice looking new transfer that makes it look much more rich in appearance. No longer looking like a DVD upconvert, this thing has had a good once over and polish with much better color timing, crispness and finer details and texture.

Depth: Depth of field is strong due to the more filmic look and approach to the restoration and transfer. Movements are smooth and natural with no issues arising from rapid scenes causing a blur or jitter type distortion.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and natural. There are great instance of shading and the nighttime scenes look pretty terrific. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors have a very natural look to them. There’s nice saturation and good texture to the shades and tints of things. Contrast with the darkness gives a good boost to the boldness and HDR applied to the image.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish. Facial details and texture are pretty clear and discernible from any given distance a character is in the frame.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.


Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA, French 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, Spanish 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: This is the same track that’s been attached to the standard Blu-ray. Its rock solid with a good, loose balance. It excels quite well in the music featured in the film. The songs hit to good effects and really sound rich in this mix.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.


National Lampoon’s Vacation comes with a redeemable digital code.

Audio Commentary

  • with Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid, Matty Simmons, Harold Ramis, Anthony Michael Hall, and Dana Barron


National Lampoon’s Vacation is a bonafide classic from the 80s and likely in the tops of the Chevy Chase canon. It comes to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray for the first time with a pretty lovely new transfer and lossless audio. Only bummer is that you’d wish they’d be able to put together some featurettes for such a popular movie. Nonetheless, when it hits the right price point for you, go for the upgrade.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link


Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com). He is also the Moderator/MC of the Live Podcast Stage and on the Podcast Awards Committee for PopCon (popcon.us). In the past 10 years at Why So Blu, Brandon has amassed over 1,500 reviews of 4K, Blu-ray and DVD titles.

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