National Lampoon’s Vacation Joins WB’s 100th Anniversary Parade in 4K

Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Perhaps it’s fate that we just passed Father’s Day on the calendar. Perhaps it’s timely marketing as well. In any case, one of cinema’s most beloved dads, the Clark Griswold character embodied by 80s A-lister Chevy Chase gets a 4K polish this week. As part of Warner Bros.’ year-long 100th anniversary, 1983’s National Lampoon’s Vacation arrives on store shelves on June 27th for the first time in the 4K UHD format. The release highlights the hit movie’s 40th anniversary and a theatrical re-release coming on July 16th.


National Lampoon's Vacation title card from the opening credits.
Images courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Directed by Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day) and written by the late great John Hughes (The Breakfast Club) from his own magazine short story, National Lampoon’s Vacation follows the highways and bi-ways of comedy and calamity besetting the Griswold family as they endure a cross-country road trip to the big fictional West Coast theme park of Walley World. With their kids Russ and Audrey (Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron) in tow, Clark and Ellen Griswold (Chase and Beverly D’Angelo), hilarious hijinks ensue at every step of the way, including memorable appearances by Randy Quaid as Cousin Eddie, future Emmy winner Eugene Levy as a sneaky car salesman, John Candy as theme park security, and magazine model Christine Brinkley turning heads in her red Ferrari.

The film is definitely a time capsule for its era, but the entire thing is held together by the Everyman charm of Chevy Chase. The former Saturday Night Live star flips his deadpan coolness for an aloofness and it works entirely with the same charisma. I’d like to think all of our fathers and father-figures have pulled a Clark Griswold-level stunt of folly or overcompensation in their day.

National Lampoon’s Vacation struck gold at the 1983 box office, earning over $60 million against a $15 million budget. Lindsey Buckingham’s earworm driving song “Holiday Road” from the soundtrack would crack the Billboard Hot 100 that year and peak at #82. The movie spawned five sequels, including 1989’s Christmas Vacation and the Ed Helms sequel vehicle Vacation in 2015. Not unlike many other series, this first one is the best one.


The 4K UHD disc cover art for National Lampoon's Vacation
Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

As with all of WB’s recent 100th anniversary 4K disc releases, the technical statistics are well maintained. The Ultra HD disc puts out 4K resolution with High Dynamic Range (HDR) allowing for a wider and brighter color spectrum. Also true to the Warner Bros. semi-lax appreciation for small details, the menus are of the usual plain, collapsing bottom-bar variety. They are boring, but at least consistent with the rest of what the studio puts out.

From a special features standpoint, the only item is the previously released commentary track. That audio version is populated by director Harold Ramis, National Lampoon series producer Matty Simmons, and actors Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid, Anthony Michael Hall, and Dana Barron. You can tell because of the hard transitions of topics and flow that Ramis was recorded solo and spliced with the notes from Simmons and the cast members. Even so, it’s a lively commentary of reflective notes about where they were pulling off these scenes, some of the shenanigans behind the cameras, fun trivia, and the repetitive complaints about how hot it was.

For the ardent fans of a great dad figure and a good dad movie, National Lampoon’s Vacation will be available on June 27th. The disc set contains the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, a regular Blu-ray, and a code for a digital download of the movie.

Written by Don Shanahan

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing here on Film Obsessive as the Editor-in-Chief and Content Supervisor for the film department. He also writes for his own website, Every Movie Has a Lesson. Don is one of the hosts of the Cinephile Hissy Fit Podcast on the Ruminations Radio Network and sponsored by Film Obsessive. As a school teacher by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Indie Critics and a voting member of the nationally-recognized Critics Choice Association, Online Film Critics Society, North American Film Critics Association, International Film Society Critics Association, Internet Film Critics Society, Online Film and TV Association, and the Celebrity Movie Awards.

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