Holiday Road: My 5 Favorite Movie Road Trips




National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983, Harold Ramis) 

The Griswolds’ first adventure is still the best in this crass satire from Harold Ramis. Chevy Chase is at his pinnacle as Clark, a family man trying to give his wife and kids the vacation of a lifetime, only to be thwarted by thieves, an evil dog, a dead aunt and a park maintenance crew (“Park’s closed; the moose out front should have told you”). John Hughes’ script laces a plot that could have been family pablum with jokes that still have a surprising edge (the fate of Aunt Edna remains a dark place for a comedy). Road trip movies are, by nature, episodic, but nearly every stop has something funny, from the white trash paradise of Cousin Eddie’s house (lorded over by a sleazy Randy Quaid) to a fateful skinny-dipping encounter with Christie Brinkley. The film is over-the-top, silly and tasteless but never grotesque (unlike its recent remake) because Chase and Beverly D’Angelo (as Clark’s long-suffering wife) bring chemistry and heart to their relationship. It’s not a cartoon, but rather the nightmare of every dad who wants to give their family a memorable time. I’ve been in the same car, smelling the same smells and flipping out just like Clark before. The laughing dulls the pain of recognition.

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