Day 21: 'National Lampoon's Vacation'

National Lampoon's Vacation 

I'm going to try something new for today's post. It's called the before, during and after effects of Day 21's movie experience (three weeks down, 79 movies to go!) So this is the before part…which will most likely be the longest since it's 6:48pm and tonight's double feature starts at 7:30pm…enough time for this, a quick paragraph at intermission, and one more before midnight, or else this Cinefella may actually crumple into a crushed, exhausted bumpkin.

So here's tonight's bedtime story. Once upon a time, there was a funny guy named Chevy Chase. He made people laugh for one season – the first season – of "Saturday Night Live." He was Chevy Chase, and we were not. He could take a fall like no other, and he could transform himself into a landshark worthy of much fear and admiration. One time, too, he had an interesting job interview with Richard Pryor where they exchanged all kinds of pleasantries.

After that, he starred in exactly two movies worth remembering – which are playing tonight on a double bill in Santa Monica. If you never know anything else about Mr. Chase, then Clark Griswold from National Lampoon's Vacation and I.M. Fletcher from Fletch are enough to cement his legacy in the annals of classic movie comedies.

Clark is a bumbling everyman who defies every catastrophe known to the road traveler dad (dead relatives, theme park disrepair, security guard heavies who look like John Candy), and who'll stop at nothing to get his beloved family to Wally World. "Fletch" is a smart ass investigative journo who has a disguise and a quick-witted response for every man, woman and crusty country club patron in his sunny So Cal way.

What do the two have in common? Chase's acerbic wit and deadpan comic delivery, honed by the unholy fires of "SNL" and a nice, prior turn in Caddyshack. From his lofty perch in the early to mid '80s, Chase would proceed to spiral down into a hole of cinematic unfunniness from which he would never recover (except possibly a semi-funny role in the revelatory Hot Tub Time Machine).

For tonight, we concentrate on the glass that's half full...time to hide the netbook and enjoy an evening where it's 1983 all over again. See you for a paragraph at intermission, and again after Fletch...from a theater of fans where he's Chevy Chase, and we're still not…

...Intermission – it's awesome to know Vacation still draws 'em in three decades later. As a fan declared after, "That movie will never die." Amen, and all hail the perfect 90 minute comedies. Between this and Fletch came '84's Beverly Hils Cop and Ghostbusters. Those were the days of the true SNL superstars (no offense MacGruber). Watching Vacation is great prep, too, for our road tripping phase of 100 days. Time to head down Lindsey Buckingham's "Holiday Road" and get "Dancin' Cross the USA." First, let's Fletch...

...And now that both are over..."Can I borrow your towel? My car just hit a water buffalo." Or "I’ll take a steak sandwich…and a steak sandwich." Or "She thought I was the greatest man on the planet…which of course, I am." How we miss you, Chevy. Thanks for keeping me up…and what say you, movie fans of the universe? Have a favorite Fletch quote, Vacation bit or Chase classic (or not-so-classic)? I'm partial to Seems Like Old Times and Foul Play but those memories are overshadowed by the horrors of Snow Day and Deal of the Century.

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