Happy Anniversary: National Lampoon’s Vacation

When the 30th anniversary Blu-ray edition of National Lampoon's Vacation (which hits shelves tomorrow) crossed my desk, two thoughts went through my head. 1) "I haven't seen this in ages!" and 2) "30th anniversary? Man, I am old." To my surprise, though, the movie itself doesn't feel as ancient as I did in that moment or as many comedies from that era do today. (Seen Meatballs lately? Yikes.) In fact, period fashions, music cues and surprising amounts of casual nudity aside, Vacation is fairly timeless in its comedy. The Griswold clan's ill-fated road trip to Walley World still makes us laugh in large part because the characters' personalities and the madcap situations they become ensnared in remain relatable and funny to viewers past and present.

Even though the original still plays just fine, thank you very much, Hollywood isn't about to let a popular brand name sit around unused. Originally set to begin production this year, the planned Vacation sequel/remake/reboot -- which is set to star Ed Helms as the now-grown Griswold scion, Rusty, who takes his own family on a cross-country car trip with Christina Applegate riding shotgun as the requisite hot blonde wife (original Griswold parents, Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo were going to cameo) -- has been delayed while the studio and the filmmakers (John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein) haggle over the movie's rating (they want an R, the studio wants a PG-13) and other creative choices. While the delay means that Helms's road trip won't be in theaters in time to celebrate the original's 30th anniversary, expect a compromise to be reached in time for the 31st or 32nd. Based on a viewing of the '83 Vacation, here are five changes you can probably expect to see in the remake.

Walley World Becomes A Six Flags Subsidiary
Let's play a round of "Mapping the Synergy" for a moment. The Vacation franchise is set up at New Line, which is part of Warner Bros., which is owned by Time Warner, which used to own the Six Flags amusement park chain and still licenses its Looney Tunes characters to its various parks. This synergistic lineage represents a potential marketing bonanza for both Six Flags and Warner Bros. Just think of it: Great Adventure could set up a "Mr. Griswold's Wild Ride" instillation before the movie comes out, while Warner Bros. would start peddling Marty Moose plush toys to toy stores. One potential downside? Brand-conscious marketing execs probably wouldn't allow Helms to punch a Wally model in the nose like Chase did.

Kate Upton is the New Christie Brinkley
A few years ago (before the one-two punch of Just Go With It and Battleship), Brinkley's iconic "Girl in the Ferrari" role -- the fast-driving, statuesque blonde temptress who lures Clark into a nude night swim -- would likely have gone to fellow Sports Illustrated swimsuit veteran Brooklyn Decker. But Mrs. Andy Roddick has since been supplanted on SI's cover (and in the hearts of the movie's target audience of horny guys) by reigning bikini model champ, Upton. Who cares that her small role in the Farrelly Brothers's Three Stooges picture revealed a pronounced lack of acting ability? Her only significant challenge is making us believe that she'd find Helms hot. On second thought, that might require a skilled performer...

A Kinder, Gentler Griswold Patriarch
Not that Chevy Chase's Clark is some kind of monster mind you, but watching the movie again it's surprising (and hilarious) just how much of an asshole Chase and director Harold Ramis are willing to make the movie's ostensible hero. Here's a family man who forgets his daughter's name, straps a dead body to the roof his car in a rainstorm and prowls around for poontang after a fight with his wife. And here's the funniest part: he doesn't feel all that bad about any of it. Even when he apologizes to D'Angelo for jumping in the pool with Brinkley or to Walley World's Disney-fied founder Roy Walley for treating his park like his personal playground, he's not all that... well, apologetic. It's safe to assume that Helms will be more contrite when attempting to make up for his failings as a man, husband and father, particularly if the studio pushes forward with their preferred PG-13 version of the reboot. That rating practically demands that assholes atone for their assholish ways.

Josh Gad is the New John Candy
Before he lost all that weight and tried his hand at dramas like Moneyball, Jonah Hill would have been a shoo-in to nab Candy's role as the portly security guard who Clark holds at gunpoint to ensure his family has a great Walley World experience. But the former star of 1600 Penn and The Book of Mormon is still maintaining the blustery attitude -- and the girth -- to be the 21st century Candy. Better him than Dan Fogler, I guess, who thankfully has lost whatever post-Balls of Fury momentum he had. Still, the ideal choice to fill Candy's husky wardrobe would be Craig Robinson. (Oh man, now I'm picturing a Robinson-led remake of Uncle Buck. Somebody make that happen.)

Dinky Lives!
It's one of the most famous gags from the first movie: having leashed up Aunt Edna's dog Dinky to the car while stopped at a campground, Clark forgets to unhook the mutt and drives off with him still attached to the bumper. When he's stopped by a cop down the road... well, let's just say Dinky has gone on to a better place than Walley World. You know, a farm where he can run around and chase butterflies and be happy forever and ever. If they repeat this joke in the remake, you can bet dollars to Scooby snacks that there will be an insert shot revealing that either A) the dog slipped out of his collar before the car drove away; or B) the leash came loose just before the Griswold's gunned the engine. Either way, Dinky won't be going the way of the dodo bird.

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