Metallic Pea

Ranking among the elite American studio comedies, National Lampoon’s Vacation is that rare breed, able to land every gag, every joke, and every scene; it’s borderline a masterpiece considering it’s a fluff road trip movie whose growing absurdities test its legitimacy, but prepares properly for a ludicrously absurdist finale.

Two things ensure the movie’s success – first is Chevy Chase in his prime, his mannerisms faultless, his comic timing perfection. Then, Chase and co-star Beverly D’Angelo who together convincingly portray an authentic marriage, as told through countless mishaps. No one who doesn’t love their wife would withstand the D’Angelo’s messy family drama, portrayed with exquisite skill by Randy Quaid and a masterful Imogene Coca. Neither would D’Angelo so readily forgive her husband’s briefly flirtatious (and hilariously catastrophic) encounter with super model Christie Brinkley. It’s clear, after all this, they’ve been through worse.

John Hughes penned this script, and Vacation’s endless charm is his doing

Chase’s growing insanity as his family road trip continues to fall apart makes his upper middle class Clark Griswold infinitely empathetic. He’s a man who desperately, above all else, wants to give his family a great time. Fate won’t allow it, the first sign happening immediately when a shrewd car dealer convinces him to take a vomit green, wood-grained station wagon that’s become an iconic piece of Hollywood vehicle history for its awfulness.

To Clark, that car is a masterpiece. It has to be, after his conviction tells him so. The dog that does nothing but bite him and his family? A small hiccup on this cross-country journey. Then a dead aunt, a dead dog, weed, porn magazines, urine-soaked sandwiches, faulty airbags, near-death car crashes, and a stint in St. Louis that even Harold Ramis regretted years later for its racial component. And still, that’s crudely funny too for its revolting caricatures as seen through the eyes of a white Chicagoan.

John Hughes penned this script, and Vacation’s endless charm is his doing. Same goes for Christmas Vacation, a rare comedy sequel nearly (if not as much so) funny as the original. Although credited, Hughes didn’t put together a script for the first sequel, European Vacation, and that shows (although Ramis didn’t direct either, to be fair). The result is a lightning-in-a-bottle comedy, wherein the cast, pace, and lampooning of an American tradition is taken to an extreme, but one that anyone can relate to.


Beautifully restored, Warner’s encode handles the grain structure cleanly, allowing the detail, sharpness, and resolution to shine. In close, the texture flourishes. Facial definition bests the Blu-ray. Precision is natural and crisp. Vacation isn’t the greatest looker on the format, but it’s organic.

Gains made to color enhance flesh tones, especially warm, but never egregiously so. The best material happens during the wide angle establishing shots, where the brilliant earth tones and rich greenery shimmer. As a pictorial road trip (as intended), Vacation’s scenery is worth the upgrade alone.

Standard HDR adds pop, whether that’s sun leaping from the “beautiful” pea green station wagon, or many of the monuments the Griswold’s pass. At night, car lights shine, and black levels drop to their deepest points, occasionally crushing.


A rather typical DTS-HD mono track isn’t anything in terms of spectacle, but it functions well enough. The classic opening theme sports enough range to give it depth. Dialog varies in fidelity, but generally sustains the same clarity throughout.


Warner brings the commentary over from the Blu-ray that includes director Harold Ramis, Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid, Anthony Michael Hall, Dana Barron, and producer Matty Simmons. However, a few retrospectives from the 30th anniversary disc do not make the trip to 4K.

National Lampoon's Vacation
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One of the great American comedies, Vacation hasn’t lost its touch after 40 years.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 51 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD:

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