Warner Bros. // 1983 // 98 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 5th, 2010
"It'll be real easy for Normie to find Aunt Edna. All he has to do is look for the buzzards."
One of the greatest comedies ever forged and a staple on your basic cable network of choice, Vacation hits Blu-ray with all the pomp and circumstance of Aunt Edna's funeral.
The Griswold family departs on their first ill-fated getaway, led by overzealous patriarch Clark (Chevy Chase, Caddyshack), to the promised land of Wally World, the greatest theme park in America. What ensues is, of course, a series of hellish experiences, including a disturbing stop at Cousin Eddie's, an unfortunate instance of animal abuse, an inopportune family death, a brush with aquatic infidelity and, eventually, a hostage crisis.
Back when the National Lampoon brand was a positive term to attach to your movie title, director Harold Ramis and writer John Hughes teamed up to produce one of the most enduring comedies ever; a near-flawless anthology of cross-country foul-ups, on-the-money slapstick and characters that have since earned their way into the Pantheon of Hilarious Comedic Creations Until Vegas Vacation Utterly Destroyed Their Reputations.
You of course know all of this and don't worry, I'm not going to run through my favorite moments of Vacation (Clark's desert trek, the hilariously politically incorrect hubcap theft in St. Louis, Jane Krakowski stirring fruit punch with her forearm, anything involving John Candy) -- as a species I'm pretty sure we've collectively seen the film about 345,645,756,227,964 times and that's just on the weekends on TBS.
The movie's a classic and if for some reason you're the lone holdout who has yet to indulge (or may have just seen the TV edit of Vacation; the R-rated version is quite revealing) acquaint yourself with a classic.
To the business at hand. I'm not going to pussy-foot around: this Blu-ray is a huge disappointment. Perhaps I'm simply a naïve putz to expect that catalog releases of great films will get a fitting rebirth in high-definition, complete with knock-out visuals and a serving of new and sexy bonus features, but...no, I'm definitely a putz. I've been burned too many times so it really shouldn't come as a big surprise that's how things unfurl here.
The transfer is serviceable, but far from the most impressive catalog update I've seen. It's a 1.85:1 treatment and it offers a mild bump in resolution and nothing more. This is a bright, colorful film and the high-def retouching does little to bring out the gloss. Is it worth a double-dip if you already have the DVD? Based on video quality alone, I'm not seeing a drastic enough increase in fidelity to warrant a re-purchase.
And you're certainly not going to get a reason with the extras, all of which have been recycled. Feature commentary is provided by Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid, Anthony Michael Hall, Dana Barron, Harold Ramis and producer Matty Simmons; it's interesting and all, but it's old. The only other bonus is a short introduction from Chase, Quaid and Simmons that was obviously recorded for the earlier DVD release. This is embarrassing. There aren't any other extras? The alternate ending that everyone talks about? A retrospective with the cast? I'll even take a pop-up trivia track. A pathetic offering.
I can't say enough good about the movie, but this Blu-ray is a poor representation.
A free pass for the feature, but a kick in the balls for the Blu-ray.
Review content copyright © 2010 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 1983
MPAA Rating: Rated R