Like many films in the eighties, we're thrown right into the action (compared to today's movies where it seems film-makers want to spend most of the movie 'getting to know' the characters, rather than moving the story forward). We meet married father of two 'Clark Griswold' (Chevy Chase) preparing to drive his family across country from Chicago to California on a pilgrimage to a fictional theme park 'Wally World' (basically Disney World for all intents and purposes). What follows is a road movie where the family get into one scrape after the next.
There's nothing too inspired for the plot. However, it's simply so funny that whatever it lacks in 'story depth' it makes up for great fun and the desire to see this bunch of characters succeed in their - supposedly easy - quest.
All the other characters play their parts (special mention to Randy Quaid and John Candy, who are - naturally - as great as ever), but 'National Lampoon's Vacation' is Chevy Chase's show and he steals every scene there is with his madcap (but strangely lovable) antics. The 'sandwich-dance' scene is still priceless!
For some reason 'National Lampoon's Vacation' never made it from my VHS collection to my DVD collection and I've only just seen it in many years. I couldn't believe how 'timeless' it is. If you're okay with some of the eighties haircuts, everything in the film could be shot today (okay, so the kids play portable tabletop video games rather than with an iphone, but apart from that...). And that's what makes the film so great - it's held up after all those years and still a total comedy gem that everyone who wants a laugh should see.
That's my review, but if you did want a contrary opinion, my mum didn't like the film because she found Chevy Chase 'too annoying.' So I guess it's not for everyone after all.