Vegas Vacation

VEGAS VACATION is a standout in the VACATION franchise saga in that it’s the only one that doesn’t have a NATIONAL LAMPOON’S in the title. I don’t know if they sued to get it off of there, like Stephen King did with STEPHEN KING’S THE LAWNMOWER MAN, or if National Lampoon said “VACATION is old hat, we decided to be strictly in the VAN WILDER business now,” or if it’s just an acknowledgment from Hollywood that by 1997 nobody who didn’t go to Harvard in the ‘70s gave a shit about that magazine or was even totally clear what exactly it was. Whatever the reason, the name wasn’t on this one, the brand showed weakness, and before long if I’m not mistaken National Lampoon was forced to change its name to American Pie Presents Magazine.

Pictured: A band on Fremont Street that was likely playing either “You Give Love a Bad Name” or “Wanted Dead Or Alive.”

I can’t claim to be an aficionado of the VACATION mythos, but after watching NATIONALLY AVAILABLE SPIN-OFF OF THE HARVARD CAMPUS COMEDY MAGAZINE’S EUROPEAN VACATION for the Summer of 1985 series I decided to be a completist and watch the only one about a vacation I’ve actually taken. I first went to Las Vegas with some friends who, like Clark and Ellen in the movie, went to renew their vows. I honestly have no interest in gambling, but it’s interesting to watch for a little bit and then walk around taking in all the people, the art on the slot machines, the crass opulence everywhere, enjoying food and alcoholic slurpies and a zipline and late hours and walking past outdoor stages with ‘80s cover bands and realizing the unifying power of Bon Jovi. Seriously, I never liked Bon Jovi growing up, but you hear those songs and somehow everyone seems to know them and want to sing along and it’s weirdly inspiring.

I can completely understand having an aversion to the place, especially if you don’t drink (a little day drinking is part of the fun for me), but I enjoy it there, I find it interesting. So I have a soft spot for Vegas and I like seeing movies filmed at places I’ve seen in real life. I’m easy that way.

I have no other evidence but I think this Ultimate Vacation Collection cover is telling us that VEGAS VACATION takes place chronologically second in the series, similar to a TEMPLE OF DOOM or TOKYO DRIFT type of situation, and this is also what the entire SAW franchise is based on almost scene-for-scene in my opinion

The previous three installments had had two and four years between them. This one was eight years after NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION COPYRIGHT 1989 NATIONAL LAMPOON MAGAZINE. So fourteen years after the first film Chase was in his mid-‘50s, but his kids were still teenagers. I’m not complaining – that’s kind of funny.

As required by the passage of time, as well as franchise tradition, both kids have been recast. Rusty is played by Ethan Embry (CAN’T HARDLY WAIT, DISTURBING BEHAVIOR, VACANCY, THE GUEST, LATE PHASES, THE DEVIL’S CANDY, BLINDSPOTTING) and Audrey is Marisol Nichols (SCREAM 2, FELON). Embry and Nichols both bring a wide-eyed, good-natured vibe that makes them easy to like as they helplessly put up with their doofus dad.

Not that the movie is very funny. Nothing wrong with the idea of moving this comedic formula to this location, but it’s got the seen-that-before weakness of all comedy sequels, plus the plummet from Chevy-Chase-between-CADDYSHACK-and-FLETCH to Chevy-Chase’s-followup-to-MAN-OF-THE-HOUSE, and from director Harold Ramis to rookie Stephen Kessler. But each of the family members has their own little storyline. Clark, of course, gets hooked on gambling, and loses all his money, which I didn’t get much out of, except for the scene where he finds a low rent casinos with games like War and Guess Which Hand?

But all the other characters have funnier subplots. Rusty’s is about getting a fake ID so he can gamble, accidentally impressing a high roller at a blackjack table (producer Jerry Weintraub in a very authentic portrayal), getting comped a hotel suite and building a secret other life as a super rich party guy. It’s a less gross take on the old idea of awkward horny Rusty trying to pull off a too-good-to-be-true scenario while away from home.

Audrey has a fun time because after the family visits with cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid after a run of INDEPENDENCE DAY, KINGPIN and GET ON THE BUS) and Cousin Catherine (Miriam Flynn, Maa from BABE) on their HILLS HAVE EYES style desert property she hangs out with their daughter Cousin Vicki (recast as Shae D’lyn, CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?) and her Vegas performer friends. There’s a very 1997 moment when we see that Vicki has a Barenaked Ladies poster in her room – both a reference for the pop culture time capsule and (I think) a joke about her being a stripper. Ironically when we see her at work there are no barenaked ladies – you only know the dancers symbolize strippers because they’re in cages or on poles.


Anyway, Audrey gets to hang out with Vicki and some Beatles impersonators at the Neon Sign Museum. That would be an amazing spot for a party, even if you didn’t get to climb up the signs like they do. I knew it from MARS ATTACKS!, and it’s in some other movies. They usually make it seem like it’s a public place you can run through while escaping from an alien attack, but in reality you pay admission to walk through the “boneyard,” a little loop where all kinds of vintage Vegas signs are piled up. It’s pretty cool. And when I was there in January they had a temporary exhibit called Lost Vegas, which had Tim Burton-designed sculptures peppered through the regular collection.

The stuff with Vicki hits on something I find interesting: there are people who live in Vegas! I’m so interested in what the locals are like. You’d think the tourism would be annoying, but you must have to make peace with it. In some places you can spot a burgeoning scene of young musicians and artists. Not just sword swallowers, but, like, singer-songwriters and stuff. It’s gotta be so different than in any other city, though.

The VEGAS VACATION subplot that I found genuinely pretty funny is Ellen’s – she’s spotted in a casino by iconic Las Vegas entertainer Wayne Newton (played by iconic Las Vegas entertainer Wayne Newton, BEST OF THE BEST 2), and Clark is too oblivious to notice what’s going on at first. Ellen is delivered a fancy dress and free front row tickets to a show, and Mr. Newton brings her up on stage to sing Minnie Riperton’s “Loving You” with him. As Clark is assuring himself this is his shtick for every show, a woman in a Wayne Newton t-shirt leans in and says, “You’re lucky. I’ve been to every Wayne show for the last 15 years. I’ve never seen him do anything like this.”

They also go to a Sigfried & Roy show, of course. If it was now it would be Celine Dion or Cirque du Soleil or Blue Man Group, I guess. I’m too cheap to experience that part of Vegas. The only celebrity I’ve seen there was when we were walking through the endless promenade and a guy tried to direct us to his sports collectibles shop. “Pete’s signing right now!” We look over and make eye contact with Pete Rose sitting alone at a table waiting for someone to want his autograph. All I could think was man, Pete Rose should not be here!

From what I’ve observed, casino workers have to be very friendly, so the joke that blackjack dealer Wallace Shawn (THE METEOR MAN, CLUELESS) constantly taunts and insults Clark doesn’t ring true. Maybe that’s part of the joke. Or maybe it’s different over there on the Strip. My friends prefer to gamble downtown – the older, less fancy part – so we stay at the Golden Nugget, which Clark and Cousin Eddie walk past in the one scene in that part of town.

Some bright spots come from familiar faces in bit parts. Julia Sweeney (PULP FICTION) has a scene as a hotel desk clerk at the Mirage, and I got an “it’s true” chuckle from her ridiculously complicated directions to their room. (I never realized until I’d been there just what endless labyrinths the casinos are.) Wendy Kaufman, a.k.a. The Snapple Lady, appears briefly as a blackjack dealer. I didn’t catch a specific joke about “hey, this is a lady you know from commercials,” but she had done them for a few years then so I assume we’re supposed to know her. And I thought a paramedic was Eric from Head of the Class, but it turned out it was Billy Morrissette, the bleach blond punk dude from PUMP UP THE VOLUME. He comes in after a pretty funny appearance by Sid Caesar.

The Griswolds also mix it up and go to the Hoover Dam where there is 1) a joke about the tour guide repeatedly saying “dam” in contexts where it sounds like “damn,” ha ha, and 2) some compositing of Clark swinging on a wire in front of the dam that’s so crude it almost looks like cutout animation.

The part where he tries to plug a leak with gum is kind of funny though. I laughed a little at that.

Releasing this sort of proved that things had changed in the world of comedy, and this was Chase’s last starring role in a movie with a real theatrical release. Director Kessler only did one other narrative feature – something called THE INDEPENDENT starring Jerry Stiller. But he did do a 2011 documentary that I saw in the Seattle International Film Festival and enjoyed (and thought I reviewed, but I can’t find it) called PAUL WILLIAMS: STILL ALIVE. It’s one of those “why is the director putting himself in this so much?” situations but ultimately turns into a moving story about Williams’ recovery, and his relationship with Kessler and the documentary is pretty central to it.

Writer Elisa Bell went on to write BEHIND THE CAMERA: THE UNAUTHORIZED STORY OF ‘THREE’S COMPANY’ and that Brittany Murphy movie LITTLE BLACK BOOK. Bob Ducsay, who got the “story by” credit, is otherwise not known as a writer, but he had already been working as an editor on Stephen Sommers’ early movies CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, THE ADVENTURES OF HUCK FINN and THE JUNGLE BOOK. That led to doing the director’s big movies like THE MUMMY, VAN HELSING and GI JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA, which must’ve got him the gig on LOOPER, and that led to THE LAST JEDI and KNIVES OUT – wow! I guess he’s the one who came out of VEGAS VACATION with the biggest winnings.

(Do you like that last part, it’s like a metaphor type of writing that I did for professionalism.)

In summary, VEGAS VACATION is about as not-good as everybody said, an actual Vegas vacation can be fun, but don’t go during a pandemic that’s fuckin crazy I don’t care if they have hand sanitizer. Stay safe, everybody!

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 17th, 2020 at 10:38 am and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

44 Responses to “Vegas Vacation”

  1. Shameful admissions: I never hated this one… Even upon rewatch, I guess the main reason I’m nice to this one is the Wayne Newton plotline. This is what I wrote on in when I marathoned the series back two years ago:

    “Clark Griswold forces his family to go Las Vegas with him but this time he messes up and his family actually enjoys this one so that makes him miserable. The PG rating forces him to tone down his old sociopath self but he still wants to cheat on his wife bad which is hilarious because in EUROPEAN VACATION and here Beverly D’Anglo is considered the ultimate woman so even in-universe Griswold is a petty and selfish jerk.”

    I didn’t think the director’s PAUL WILLIAMS: STILL ALIVE was all that great but it kinda has some moments. I was particularly impressed by the part of the documentary where the director/narrator/star openly opines if it’s Paul Williams’ wife whose to blame for him not being ‘a thing’ anymore. This hypothesis is mostly based on her not getting along with him (the director). Maybe I’m misremembering it but I remember that part kinda disgusting me so much I almost shut off the already not good documentary but it was almost over. Oh well, Williams got to provide to the best track on Daft Punk’s last album and still is a delight when his voice pops up in cartoons.

  2. I enjoy all the Vacation movies and I thought this one was always underrated. The first time I saw this I hadn’t even been to Vegas yet, but still laughed loudly at Clark being so desperate he would play War and Guess the Hand. But they actually do have War at the casinos now! Like you Vern, I love Vegas – it’s the perfect amount of kitsch, glamour and seedy underbelly that feels very only-in-America. I’ve been to a few of the Cirque shows and seen a few big-name concerts there, but it’s true that if you’ve got a half-decent cover band playing someone, people will have a blast.

    I, too, saw Pete Rose sitting on the strip waiting for people to get his autograph. I also ran into Tommy Davidson on the Strip once. Nick Papagiorgio forever!

  3. I can’t say which came first, but I can say my last trip to Las Vegas came in 2000, and I’m pretty sure they had War then?

    Could be confusing it with my more local casinos, though, which I HAVE visited slightly more recently than 2000.

  4. I only watched it 20-ish years ago on TV and remember not hating it, but also not liking it much, although I developed a crush on this Audrey over the course of this movie.

    Vegas is one of those places, that I really wanna visit one day. I don’t drink and I don’t gamble (although I wouldn’t be against trying the slotmachines), but the glitz of it seems like something that must be seen to believed. Also I heard that the hotels are cheap as fuck, because they make all their money with gambling.

  5. I’ve never seen this, on account of it being a Chevy Chase movie from 1997. I don’t think I’m alone in that.

    With the exception of the afternoon I spent playing ruble slots in Moscow in the spring of 1990, I’ve never enjoyed gambling. I am a pessimist by nature, so I always assume I will lose. I look around at the conspicuous opulence of casinos and it feels exceedingly obvious that they did not cover their entire acreage with $400/sq.ft marble flooring because they assumed their patrons would win. With no hope of victory, all gambling means to me is paying out the nose for the chance to play an exceptionally boring game you would never bother with if there wasn’t money on the line. The one time I went to a casino and actually gambled, I put down ten bucks at roulette or something, lost in seconds, and immediately started thinking about everything I could have bought with that ten bucks besides, you know, nothing. Meanwhile, my girlfriend at the time had a ball hanging out at the craps table, being blond and busty and getting free drinks and casino chips for blowing on some big spender’s dice. I think she walked away with like a hundred bucks and never even had to ante up. I let her have her fun and hung out with the kids of all these gambling addicts in the arcade, where the games were cheaper, funner, and lasted longer.

  6. That alternative casino game sequence still sticks with me, along with Chase not recognizing the kids in the beginning, and him insulting Wayne Newton by telling him to “go sing something”.

    Can’t explain it, just things that made me laugh and still do. (Although I haven’t seen this since theaters).

    Never been the biggest fan of the Vacation series (never saw the reboot either) but dont hate them either. (Although I’m confounded by the love of Christmas Vacation. It’s fine, and the “Shitter was full” part is funny, but I don’t put it on a pedestal like others.

    Unrelated: went to a Bon Jovi concert once (as all folks from Jersey are required to do) and was surprised to discover how many songs I suddenly knew all the words to. Weird.

  7. One of the most disturbing moments in my life was when I had to pick up my sister from work a few years ago. Back then, she was a cleaning lady in a “casino”. I put it in quotes, because while these etablissements were allowed to call themself that, they were shitty crapholes with slot machines. They aren’t allowed to call themself casino here anymore, by the way.

    Anyway, she worked from 3am to 6am, 7 days a week. The thing was, the “casino” she was in, was such a shady place, they were open 24/7 and even on holidays although they weren’t allowed to, but the owner simply didn’t give a shit. But I digress. That one Sunday morning I got a call from her, that some guy there was a bit “too friendly” and she wanted me to pick her up and walk her home. The guy already left when I arrived, but while I was standing there and waiting for my sis to end her shift, I felt a sense of dread that I never felt before.

    Sunday morning. 6am. And I was surrounded by zombie looking men and women, sticking coin after coin in the slot machines, while beer bottles and pizza boxes were piling up around them. They probably spent the night there or got up really early, just to waste their time and money with that shit. If I wouldn’t have been already against gambling back then, this would’ve scared me straight.

  8. THE INDEPENDENT is a really great mockumentary with Jerry Stiller as a Roger Corman-style B-Movie producer. It’s just about the best comedy I can think of to not even gain a cult following. I may not be to be trusted though as I like VEGAS VACATION too.

  9. Knowing people who actually live in Vegas (and have visited a few times) the strip/downtown is so separated from the rest of Vegas, I guess residents sort of forget there is a tourism section unless they are forced to deal with it.

    Sort of like Times Square in NY. I had offices pretty much in Times Sq, but other times, I sort of forgot it existed. And everytime I was forced to deal with it, it was like “Oh yeah, there’s all this annoying shit here…”

  10. I interviewed Kessler for the Paul Williams doc and asked him about the title of this. I forget the exact figure but it was something like $150,000 to use the National Lampoon’s brand so they just decided Vacation was well known enough without National Lampoon’s.

    I still like this one. I feel Chevy is actually trying and all the subplots work for me. Papa Giorgio is my favorite though.

  11. I remember one bit from THE INDEPENDENT where Stiller’s character brags about the movies he produced, including WORLD WAR 2, PART 2.

    Jerry Weintraub went on a few years later to produce OCEAN’S ELEVEN and it’s subsequent sequels (in which he had a bit role in both, and I think appears in the first). Just before he died HBO made a really cool doc on his career, going from managing Elvis and Sinatra in the 60’s and 70’s to producing movies starting with Robert Altman’s NASHVILLE.

    I saw this in it’s theatrical release. Some of it was funny but not altogether memorable. Interesting to me that they didn’t make a follow-up to CHRISTMAS VACATION sooner since it was pretty decent hit. 7 years after it doesn’t have the kind of heat behind it.

  12. I wonder if Chevy Chase just woke up one day around 1990 and found out that he wasn’t able to be funny anymore?

  13. I mean, I love NOTHING BUT TROUBLE, and THE INVISIBLE MAN is okay, but he plays them straight, and for the last 30 years he’s been living off FLETCH and CHRISTMAS VACATION.

  14. I think it was more a case of him losing the ability to pick the right scripts. He was (and still is) obviously able to deliver well written jokes, but his late night show was proof that he might not be the best improvisor. So if he gets something like COPS & ROBBERSONS or MAN OF THE HOUSE, there isn’t much he can do.

    Although I noticed that whenever he was cast outside of type, like playing a “normal” dad in the unbelievable underappreciated Nickelodeon comedy SNOW DAY or a villain a few episodes of CHUCK, he was still really good. If he wouldn’t be such a notorious asshole, he probably had dozens of indie directors lining up to make him their Bill Murray.

  15. Not sure Murray is less difficult than Chase to be honest, although he might have mellowed a bit.

  16. I second that Bon Jovi seems to be a great unifier. I as never into them in the 80s, and they fell out of favor in the 90s, but now….they seem to hit a spot very few things do. A mix of nostalgia, cheese, and a healthy dose of actual heartfeltness to them really make them work. Especially LIVIN’ ON A PRAYER (I love that weird distorted whoa..whoa..whoa noise that kicks that one off) and WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE. Something hard to explain about them really hits pretty much everyone right in the soul.

    I wondered who cared about National Lampoons anymore myself. I like some of their lesser known early movies (the slasher spoof CLASS REUNION is great), and loved VAN WILDER, but something about that brand seems totally dead now. But there seems to still be some creeping around the DTV universe every once in awhile…some of which even have several sequels of their own…so who the fuck knows. Not sure if the magazine exists in any form anymore. Maybe the brand got a burst of energy from that documentary and bio pic that came out somewhat recently? Not sure.

    I thought CHRISTMAS VACATION 2 had also dropped the moniker, but a quick google search reveals that one had it again. Go figure!

  17. Pacman, I don’t know Murray or Chase personally, but I haven’t heard of one pleasent fan encounter with Chase and also don’t keep hearing stories about Murray getting in personal fights with his directors. While Murray himself admits to have quite an ego, he actually seems to be able to behave like a reasonable human being.

    Tigger, I read a few years ago, that the National Lampoon itself is dead and the rights to the name have been sold, which is why it keeps (or kept?) popping up in shitty DTV comedies for a while.

  18. I’m not even sure the Lampoon brand held much weight back the. I was probably 35 before I learned what the fuck a National Lampoon even was. And even then I couldn’t figure out why anybody would put the name of a college newsletter in front of a random road trip movie until I saw the Netflix film. Which is equal parts extremely entertaining and extremely illustrative of everything wrong with how white dudes see themselves and their world. It’s basically WHY I, A SMUG NARCISSIST, CAN DO WHATEVER THE FUCK I WANT AND EVERYONE ELSE NEEDS TO LIGHTEN UP: THE MOVIE. You can easily see how what once seemed like a revolutionary and progressive school of comedy devolved into the heartless punching down of modern conservative nihilism.

  19. The only time I ever looked through National Lampoon was in grade five, when someone donated an issue to the class magazine collection — mistakenly, I’d guess, because the content was pretty much like the humour sections of Playboy. I wasn’t the only one who noticed. By the next day it had mysteriously vanished.

    The magazine was already in decline by that point, but from what I gather it was a big deal in the early ’70s. I still see people talking about that “If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog” cover a lot.

  20. There was that Netflix original movie a couple years ago w/ Will Forte and others that was substantially about the early days of National Lampoon. The movie is an interesting watch but pretty damn bizarre, as it’s not particularly funny and has a lot of odd stunt casting and can’t really decide what it wants to be, never really committing to drama or comedy and, so, pretty much failing at both. I’d call it an absurdist tragi-comic biopic. But if you want to see a Will Forte / Domhall Gleeson buddy movie with Joel McHale playing fellow COMMUNITY alum Chevy Chase (full circle to Chevy!), along with various other contemporary b-list comedians each playing a more famous comedian from the late-70s/early-80s era … well, it may be your kind of film.

  21. CJ Holden- There are some pretty extreme stories about Murray’s behaviour on some films, most notably WHAT ABOUT BOB?, and he has a pretty long list of often befuddling feuds. I guess lucky for him Wes Anderson is not one of them. I don’t want to judge him and certainly there’s no shortage of awful Chevy stories, but I feel like Murray is one of those cases where a blind eye has been turned because it’s been decided he’s just “too cool”\” essential” to criticise, and stuff like that leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

  22. I know I’ve told this story before, but I was in the Knoxville airport when they were filming Adam Rifkin’s THE LAST MOVIE STAR with Burt Reynolds and I heard someone asking an airport employee about if they’d met the stars. I was scandalized by how disgusted she sounded about him being “NOT friendly” because I thought she was talking about Burt. Turned out it was Chevy. That made more sense.

    CJ – Were the slot machines you talked about the kind you see in movies, with the arm and the spinning? Those seem appealing but almost everything in Vegas is computerized. I tried playing maybe a total of 3 times and never had any clue what I was supposed to be doing. But I do like walking around admiring the different licensed properties. There are at least 4 or 5 Rocky machines, for example. A not so common one I found was Three Amigos, which does NOT have the likeness of Chevy or the other two.

    Oh, and the topic of Bon Jovi as unifier reminded me of a viral video I had forgotten:


  23. Pacman, yeah I should’ve clarified that I don’t hear bad stories about Murray being an asshole on set anymore. He surely had his fair share of asshole behaviour when he was one of the biggest moviestars in the world, but ever since he started his run as indie icon and occasional bit player in studio comedies, he seemed to have mellowed down. A while ago I even read in one of those “Have you ever met a celebrity” Reddit threads about a bunch of delightful encounters with him. I guess being able to pick who you wanna work with and when you wanna work, helps a lot with whatever problem he had.

    Vern, pretty much those, where you put a coin in, push a button (they don’t have the cool arms here) and wait for the right symbols to show up. These days they have computerscreens and animations running, instead of spinning discs. Either way, nothing I can imagine doing more than thrice before saying “Fuck it, I guess I won’t win, let’s do something else.”

  24. On the topic of people who live in Vegas, the one and only time I went to the city was to visit some relatives who lived there. They worked as casino guards and had, it turned out, extremely severe alcohol problems, so the trip was a little bumpy. I didn’t really get any time on my own to explore (not that I really wanted to, given that it was like 110 degrees outside), so my main impression of Vegas casinos is that they really smell like cigarettes.

    As a kid, I knew *of* National Lampoon (and by extension Harvard Lampoon) primarily because of their impact on The Simpsons and, to a lesser degree, SNL, but also because of a not-very-good Lord of the Rings parody novel called “Bored of the Rings” (a sample of the novel’s humor level- the lead hobbit is named “Dildo”) that me and my friends got a lot of mileage out of as kids. That said, I never actually read they physical magazines, I just knew that’s where guys like Al Jean and Conan O’Brien came from.

    Anyway, this movie’s not terribly great, huh? Given the jokes they *do* make, it’s kind of baffling that they wouldn’t just go for a full-on “R” rating, especially since just a few years later they’d go hard-R for VAN WILDER. Then again, given the results there, maybe that wouldn’t have helped much.

  25. A lot of casinos have a dark corner with a bank of 10-12 ‘analog’ slots for the novelty of it. Once I was in Harrahs or something and found some, but right before I could drop a quarter into it, some floor boss appeared as was like “don’t waste your money on that! That has a jackpot of $500!” he then pointed to a bank of computerized machines (as if I would ever have trouble finding them) “those cost the the same per credit but have a jackpot of ten grand”

    I tried to explain to him I just wanted the novelty of pulling the lever and whatnot, but he would not let it drop “Your just throwing your money away! Give me that quarter if you’re going to throw it away!”

    I finally moved on, but then doubled back when I saw that guy wasn’t around. And yeah, lost a couple bucks pulling the big lever. Then felt stupid that I insisted on doing it even after the guy warned me.

    tl;dr Big lever machines exist, don’t bother

  26. Kurgan: I think Chevy at this time wanted to do more family movies, and less R-rated stuff. He was offered the lead in AMERICAN BEAUTY and turned it down for that reason. I read that he also turned down the lead in THE PLAYER too, which even in his heyday would have been too dark a role for him.

    There’s a doc and Netflix movie about National Lampoon’s formation and their time in the 70’s as being at the forefront of subversive humor. It’s funny that later on the VACATION movies would be so promoted as family movies, despite how raunchy the first movie and the publication was itself.

  27. I have a friend who still watches all the DTV NATIONAL LAMPOON branded movies. He’s seen all the DORM DAZEs and PLEDGE THIS and ANOTHER DIRTY MOVIE and LAST RESORT who knows what else… So maybe ponying up the cash for that banner really does pay off? He’s kept up with them and watched them as they’ve come out for decades…

    I asked him how often they come out, and he said, “Usually a couple a year.”

    Another song that totally unifies, is the “Holiday Road” theme from the original VACATION. I remember being at a punk show around 1999, and a local scummy punk band covered it…and the audience lit up. Everyone knew the words and the place went nuts. I distinctly remember saying “Holy shit!!” Out loud by not only the song choice, but the totally over the top reaction to it. Especially considering the grungy, unwashed nature of the crowd…it was quite a surreal spectacle. Now, that half sincere/half ironic love of all things 80s is very common….but back them I think that wave was just starting. It was quite a site to see.

    Another one that hits it, to a lesser extent but it personally resonates with me a lot, is the “We’re Bouncin’ Off The Walls Again” song from VAN WILDER. It plays in my head whenever I think of my college days…and I graduated college a few years before that movie even came out! I’m having nostalgia displacement with it somehow. Might be because VAN WILDER itself very much reminded me of my college experience. For some reason my school in had a ton of guys who had been there about 8 years too long, seemingly had a full run of the place, and seemingly did no work. They were never kicked out, but they never graduated either. Maybe they all had like 5 degrees…or maybe they never finished. Who knows. But I was always fascinated with them, and you did enter into a weird “cool club” that knew all the inside scoops when you befriended them. I stuck around my college area for about 2 years after I graduated, and stayed very active in the student goings on. Then I felt myself becoming one of “those guys” and got out pretty quick. Within a year I saw VAN WILDER for the first time…and I immediately felt a kinship with it’s entire premise.

    Some of the bad stuff about Bill Murray has been coming out in the last few years, particularly about WHAT ABOUT BOB? Also the way he holds lifelong grudges with people over seemingly mild disagreements. He might be a jerk…but I think his brand of jerk is routed in his eccentric nature. Some ego, yes, but you do hear plenty of good about him.

    Chevy Chase on the other hand….just seems nasty to the core. While “the dirt” on Bill Murray took people decades to talk about…Chevy Chase people couldn’t wait. Trash talk him on Howard Stern or whatever when the movie they were in with him was just about to come out. With no holds barred. Seems like you have to be a true asshole to get that reaction. He seems the most openly hated person in all of Hollywood who isn’t an outright sex offender.

    Gotta get around to reading that book on the making of CADDYSHACK! Both of them were in that lol…seems like a powder keg about to explode…but also I think the one that made them who they are (even more than SNL).

  28. I always liked the “Holiday Road” video, set in this depressing corporate hellscape better suited to a movie like JOE VS THE VOLCANO.

    Lindsey Buckingham - Holiday Road (Official Music Video)

    You’re watching the official music video for "Holiday Road" by Lindsey Buckingham. Lindsey's new anthology is out now! Get your copy here https://lnk.to/LBAn...

  29. That Holiday Road song is Lindsey Buckingham???

    I hated Bon Jovi as a kid, being a fan of dismissive and sarcastic New Wave and honest hard rock like GnR, and viewing Bon Jovi as just the latest step down from legendary legit rock musicians like Def Leppard and paving the way for abominations like the Nelson twins that nailed the coffin shut for most rock music when Nirvana shone a cleansing light on the industry. But when I hear Bon Jovi nowadays it brings back good memories. It is very strange.

    Vegas hotels vary extremely in price depending on whether there is a convention in town or not. The same exact hotel room in a decent casino can be $100 one night and $400 a week later. Higher end places like Bellagio vary a bit less but still can be twice as expensive depending on the day. At least this is my experience. I got married in Vegas 5 years ago and stayed in a really nice room in the Bellagio for two nights for $400 a night, then on the way out of Nevada on the way back home after visiting the national parks we stayed at a low-rent place on the strip for $200 and it was really a shocking difference in quality and clientele. The casino was in the basement where you also had to check in, and I felt like I was in danger of being puked on or punched in the face the entire time.

  30. rainman, I would bet hearing Bon Jovi now is a happy memory because it reminds you of a time when your biggest annoyance in life was a rock band. Oh, if only we could concentrate on hating such effluvia.

  31. I had a rather flippant attitude about Bon Jovi too, but closer to a begrudging respect because I’ve heard nothing but nice things about Jon Bon Jovi as a person. Recently I listened to Jon on a podcast just after it was announced the band would be going into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and subsequently watched their induction. His candor on the podcast, and the overall earnestness and honesty in which he conducts himself turned my opinion around. Yeah they were not an album band like Zeppelin or Floyd at all, but they had at least two great songs in “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “Wanted Dead or Alive” (and JBJ’s “Blaze of Glory” earned every bit of that Oscar nomination). I even liked the use of “Runaway” in what was pretty definitively the worst episode of the 2nd season of STRANGER THINGS.

    And of all the bands slaughtered by the Seattle onslaught of the early 90’s, they were the smartest in terms of shifting into new territories by making more pop-radio friendly ballads like “Bed of Roses” and “Always”, and especially playing more towards the European audiences. It primed the comeback with “It’s My Life” quite nicely by the time the 90’s bit the dust. Even having a country hit (being the first rock band to have a #1 on that Billboard chard) was smart and left-field enough to be admirable.

  32. Aerosmith arguably remained relevant longer by writing the same ballad ten times. But going back and listening to the Bon Jovi music that I despised 30 years ago… it ain’t that bad, really. I think I even knew this at the time and I was put off partially by their fanbase of multitudes of girls my age who would offer their virginities on a silver platter to Bon Jovi or that guitar player guy. Jealousy is not a good look there, young rainman.

  33. I think Chevy can still be funny. On Community he turned eating a slice of pizza into a set piece. His five minute cameo in the new Vacation was funny too.

    Murray May have burned some bridges with Ramis and Dreyfus but his behavior often results in hits. And he seems to be about making the work better. Chase stories seem to be to the detriment and have noticeably sabotaged his career. Chris Columbus’s Christmas Vacation story is brutal, tho I guess that turned out to be a hit since it was already Chase’s franchise.

  34. Maggie- yeah I often think of a headline from The Onion just after 9/11 – “America Longs To Care About Stupid Bullshit Again”. Alas, ‘twas never to be.

  35. Was curious so I looked up how many NATIONAL LAMPOON movies there truly were.

    Holy shit, it’s a lot:

    I remember being a kid, when LOADED WEAPON came out, and thinking “that doesn’t seem like a National Lampoon type of movie…” and the same with SENIOR TRIP a couple years later. Those were the first from a new company taking over the name. Even at that age I picked up on it…

    The most recent one i’ve seen is NATIONAL LAMPOON’S STONED AGE (2007), which was an Adam Rifkin Joint.

    As far as the ones I’ve seen (not many after the 80s heyday), the hidden gem would be CLASS REUNION. It was a slasher spoof similar to STUDENT BODIES or PANDEMONIUM. I remember it being the lesser to those, but 5th grade me liked it at least. A quick IMDB search has revealed 2 things of interest: it is no longer listed under the NATIONAL LAMPOON banner, and it was written by John Hughes.

    My friend who has made a point to keep up with them, says the true hidden gem is REPLI-KATE (2002).

  36. The only Stoned Age movie I have heard of is the one from 1994 and it’s not a national lampoon or an Adam Rifkin joint.

    BTW, how does Adam Rifkin able to make so many movies and get big stars despite never having made a hit movie before?

  37. I actually know of a few people have that gone to Pandemic Vegas.

  38. Sternshein:

    Adam Rifkin’s STONED AGED (shot independently as HOMO ERECTUS, distributor changed the titled and added the National Lampoon’s) was an interesting oddball. Rifkin himself stars as the first Caveman to start thinking for himself, and meets up with friction from the other ones. Been awhile since I’ve seen it, but I remember it being sort of early Woody Allen-ish in tone, with a bit of Mel Brooks-ish. My main reason for renting it was because ultimate weirdo Guisseppe Andrews (who Rifkin later make a documentary about) and wacky internet B-movie enthusiast Shawn C. Phillips (aka “Coolduder”) appear in it.

    I have wondered that myself about Rifkin. I’ve always liked him. He strikes me as a weirdo film buff allowed to run wild. With quite a variety of strange credits. Some are pretty close to mainstream (DETROIT ROCK CITY) some are schlock (PSYCHO COP RETURNS) some are cult anomlies (THE DARK BACKWARD) and some are pretty much unknown (NIGHT AT THE GOLDEN EAGLE). All have something going for them…all are just a little off.

    I have no idea how he keeps trucking the way he does. He might be genunily well liked, and people really want to work with him for whatever reason. He might have money and connections that we never hear about, or are unpublicized. I suspect it’s kind of a combination of both.

    He is a strange fringe character, that’s for sure. I’d love to see VERN do a series on him. Seems the type to be unearthed on this site lol.

    I saw the STONED AGE you are talking about as well…that was marketed as a contemporary to DAZED AND CONFUSED, but was a bit more of a straight comedy. Kind of a Metal Head ANIMAL HOUSE with a touch of CLERKS if memory serves right.

  39. Yeah, they famously have the quote “Better than Dazed and Confused” which it’s not but it’s still a pretty good underrated comedy not many have heard of.

  40. THE CHASE was also a mainstream release – I saw it in a mall multiplex at the time. I suspect part of Rifkin’s secret is that he was an in-demand screenwriter early in his career. As a young man he was getting paid for big time movies that didn’t happen like a PLANET OF THE APES remake, and then for ones that did like MOUSEHUNT, SMALL SOLDIERS and eventually UNDERDOG. But he also has the urge to make indie and b-movies and I’m sure that’s easier when you have the connections and money to fall back on from the other job.

    You’re right, it might be fun to do a Rifkin series. I discovered him through THE DARK BACKWARD, which I have not reviewed and haven’t seen in years. I believe the ones I’ve reviewed are NEVER ON TUESDAY, PSYCHO COP RETURNS, SMALL SOLDIERS and THE LAST MOVIE STAR.

  41. Rifkin also seems like the kind of guy who’s probably done a thousand uncredited rewrites and saved a lot of people’s asses. I have no proof of this. It’s just the vibe he gives off.

  42. Mr. Majestyk: I get that vibe as well. Not sure why…but just seems like it.

    I find him a facinating character, and definitely worthy for a deep dive series. Very eccentric and eclectic resume. And some VERY mainstream writing credits to mix it up!!

  43. Yeah I think for a writer like that, for every credit they actually have, they have like 10-20 jobs on movies you’ve heard of but had no idea they worked on them, usually for a huge payday. Carrie Fisher did that a ton. I listen sometimes to the scriptnotes podcast and those guys talk about all of the movies they worked on, but so many of them aren’t in their credits so if you go by IMDB it seems like they only work from time to time. But in reality they’re constantly cranking stuff out.

  44. Thanks for the reminder of my own “celebrity” spot in Vegas. While visiting the city during a family holiday back in 2001, we visited the Wizard of Oz gift shop. It had all sorts of stuff on sale, including a variety of books from those written by L. Frank Baum, to recent releases by his great-grandson, Roger Stanton Baum. It was only when leaving the shop did I notice that a small sign on a table advertising that Roger himself was instore. He was sat on his lonesome, with no queue to speak of.

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