My Favorite Vacation – European Vacation

Now don’t get mad at me right off the bat; the original Vacation movie starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron as the Griswold family is great. Fantastic. Amazing. Super funny.

But, if you asked me which was my favorite of the National Lampoon Vacation series (besides the classic Christmas Vacation, which I put in its own category under favorite-holiday-movies-movies-with-Randy-Quaid-as-Cousin-Eddie-brilliance in them) I would say 1985’s European Vacation directed by the great Amy Heckerling. European Vacation still starred Chevy and Beverly as Clark and Ellen, and brought in a new Rusty and Audrey (after Anthony Michael Hall decided to do Weird Science instead, the producers recast the kids) played by Jason Lively (Blake’s older brother) and Dana Hill. This much-maligned contribution to the Vacation series just hasn’t gotten its props over the years.

European Vacation (1985)

The opening scene features the Griswold family on a game show called “Pig in a Poke” where they mistakenly win the grand prize: you guessed it, a European vacation.

The Griswold family wins a Europen Vacation on the game show, "Pig in a Poke"

The teenage kids naturally have no desire to see the sights of Europe with their folks; Audrey desperately does not want to leave her boyfriend Jack (80s movies institution William Zabka) with whom she constantly makes out, and Rusty just thinks looking at a bunch of old buildings sounds pretty boring.

Audrey Griswald and her boyfriend Jack

Our hero, Clark W. Griswold, the most lovable, annoying, bumbling movie dad there ever was announces that the entire family is going: this exchange pretty much sums up the rest of the film:

Ellen: “Clark, why don’t we just forget the “Pig-in-a-Poke” itinerary, and just play it by ear, like normal people?”
Clark: “Honey, we’re not normal people. We’re the Griswolds.”

And off we go . . .

In typical Griswold fashion, both Clark and Ellen have fantasies of the amazing time they’re about to have while sleeping on the flight over. Clark dreams up a hilarious Sound of Music spoof with his loving family while Ellen dreams of meeting the royal family complete with Princess Di having a huge crush on her husband who has to fight off her advances.

But it’s always Rusty and Audrey’s European dreams that still make me laugh out loud as I watch it for the zillionth time on AMERICAN MOVIE CLASSICS (yes!)

Audrey has a nightmare of plates and platters of heavy, delectable food and pastries being brought to her by restoration period looking wait staff. She eats and eats herself into a little frenzy until she inflates like a balloon, almost popping. I have had similar dreams/nightmares- yikes.

Rusty dances awkwardly in a European nightclub with a bunch of New Wave characters to The Power Station’s ‘Some Like it Hot’ all whilst wearing a white jumpsuit that says “RUSTY – THE EUROPEAN TOUR” on the back in red. That’s hot.

Revisit the major highlights of our favorite American family from Chicago as they make their way across Europe:

  • In England, when Clark can’t get over to the left while driving around a roundabout, saying over and over again, “Hey look kids, there’s Big Ben, and Parliament!”
  • When the kids ask what the Queen does and Clark says, “She Queens. And vacuums.”
  • When the Griswolds knock over Stonehenge, domino-style.
  • When Rusty can’t find anything on television except for “snow” and “cheese.”
  • In Paris, Clark forcing everyone to wear humiliating berets with their names stitched on the front.
  • At the café in Paris, when the waiter is super snooty and rude in French to them.
  • When they go to Germany, thinking they are visiting Clark’s long lost relatives, they end up with strangers they call Fritz and Helga who have no idea who the Griswolds are.
  • During a meal while Helga is serving giant sausages, Audrey’s line, “God, I miss Jack.”
  • In Germany at an Octoberfest celebration, so many, many things, including Clark doing a bizarre dance in lederhosen then getting in a fist fight while Rusty is about to get extremely lucky with a German girl named Claudia who shows him her boobs.
  • The scene on the train when they are all annoying the hell out of each other.
  • In Rome, the most 80s shopping montage scene ever:

  • Also in Rome, when Rusty meets up with Moon Unit Zappa.
  • And, also in Rome, at the end of the movie when Ellen is kidnapped and Clark has to save her because after all . . . this is an 80s movie and something like that has to happen.

Yes, this movie is silly. Yes, some of the jokes truly make you roll your eyes:

Stewardess: “Do you want something to drink?”
Clark: [to Ellen] “Honey, you want something?”
Ellen: “No thank you.”
Clark: [to the Stewardess] “I’ll have a Coke.”
Stewardess: “Do you want that in the can?”
Clark: [Clark turns and looks at the bathroom, then turns back at the Stewardess] “No, I’ll have it right here.”

But, to me European Vacation remains hilarious. It’s Chevy Chase at his best and Beverly D’Angelo at her sexiest and Dana Hill was really funny and . . . dare I say it? Sorry Anthony Michael Hall, you’re my favorite in plenty of other things, but I think Jason Lively might just be my favorite Rusty.

Jason Lively as Rusty Griswald in "European Vacation"

Author: Lori Ferraro

Lori is a writer and actor living in Portland, OR. Her website, Drawn to the 80s, is where her 5 year old draws the greatest music hits of the 1980s. She is a blogger for The Huffington Post and her own blog, Once Upon a Product, is where she writes about important things like beauty products, music, her obsession with Mick Jagger and of course...the 80s.

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1 Comment

  1. Blasphemy!

    To me, it’s Original, then Christmas, then European. Vegas was terrible.

    I haven’t seen the trailers for the new Vacation movie, but I’ll bet they miss the mark with this new one with too much violence and debauchery. Such is the norm mow while the essence of the Clark character and the Series itself is goodness and innocence.

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