“Why aren’t we flying? Because getting there is half the fun. You know that.”
The National Lampoon magazine debuted in 1970, as a spin-off of the Harvard Lampoon. In contrast to its parent magazine, it came out monthly and was distributed — as its name suggests — on a national level. The magazine rapidly grew in popularity, and by the end of the decade was successful enough that the company was able to branch out into movies, with 1978′s Animal House. The film was a comedy hit, especially among the college students who were both the subject and the target audience of the Lampoon’s brand of humor.
A follow-up, however, proved more difficult. Class Reunion, released in 1982, only made $10 million at the box office; by comparison, Richard Pryor’s The Toy made nearly five times as much the same year. Movie Madness was meant to come out in 1981 as the company’s second film, but was delayed — getting only a limited release in 1982. It would eventually get a full release in late 1983, and bomb. But success came with the third film, one that broke a bit from the college-oriented mold of the others. Although it was R-rated, and thus not for children, it nevertheless appealed to those adults with families thanks to its familiar themes. Released in the summer of 1983, National Lampoon’s Vacation became the company’s second hit. Continue reading →
Back, once again, to the oeuvre of John Hughes comedies. Although Hughes didn’t direct this 1988 film — Howard Deutch did — he wrote the script, and it’s easy to recognize his hand in its creation. Throw in John Candy and Dan Aykroyd as the lead characters, and it’s a shoe-in that I’d be checking this movie out.
The Great Outdoors is one of those films that I have, technically, seen before. At least partly. I can remember it playing in the VCR at a family friend’s house when I was a child. But, as was so often the case when I was a child, I only watched bits and pieces of it as I ran around the place. I remember everybody laughing, and I remember thinking it was funny when I stopped to watch it. But I only really remembered the scene with the bear (it’s the sort of thing that leaves an impression on a ten year old). So, as a film lost to the fog of easily-distracted youth, I had to check it out again as an adult. Continue reading →
“We’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny f’ing Kaye!”
For my second “Favorite Films” review, I thought I’d go back to the well I went to in the first one — that of John Hughes holiday movies. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation may have a lot more competition, and much steeper competition, for the title of best movie for its holiday, but even if it wouldn’t take everyone’s top spot, it’s certainly a solid contender. It’s easily the Christmas movie I watch most often, and that’s due to both how funny it is, and how believable it is.
Released in 1989, when Chevy Chase was at the peak of his career, Christmas Vacation has him reprising his role as Clark Griswold, this time trying to ensure the perfect Christmas for his kids and extended family. Of course, it’s not going to be that easy — he’s Clark Griswold, after all, and there’s no such thing as a successful Griswold vacation. Continue reading →
“Six bucks and my left nut says we’re not going to be landing in Chicago.”
We all have our favorite films, and when you have a movie blog, it’s almost obligatory to occasionally push them onto your readers. So, considering we are exactly one week away from Thanksgiving in the United States, I’ve decided to open up my “Favorite Films” series of reviews with what is arguably the greatest comedy to take place at Thanksgiving. Granted, it’s not the most crowded field when it comes to holiday movies — Christmas, being just a bit more universal (or at least extending into the rest of Western civilization) certainly gets the lion’s share of holiday movies — but I am confident that even had John Hughes’ 1987 odd couple comedy Planes, Trains, and Automobiles been set at Christmas, it would still be a fondly-remembered comedy classic.
From the dialogue, to the plot, to the acting by its two stars, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is just about perfect. Continue reading →