Warner Bros. // 1997 // 95 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // October 24th, 2003
This time the Griswolds are on a roll.
They've survived a hostile takeover of Wally World, the destruction of Stonehenge in Europe, and a rambunctious Christmas holiday at home. Now the Griswold clan is off to sin city in Vegas Vacation, their fourth (and mostly likely final) quest for family fun. After getting a substantial promotion from work (his food preserver has been approved!), Clark (Chevy Chase) wrangles up his family, including wife Ellen (original Vacation holdover Beverly D'Angelo), son Rusty (Ethan Embry, Can't Hardly Wait), and daughter Audrey (Marisol Nichols, Scream 2) for a fun filled week in Las Vegas! What Clark doesn't know is that he's about to lose all his cash playing blackjack against an annoying casino dealer (Wallace Shawn, The Princess Bride), lose his wife to Wayne Newton's slimy charms, and witness his son become a mafia big wig and daughter take up exotic dancing. To make matters worse Clark's least favorite person on the planet, Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid), shows up to make his life a living hell. It'll take a lucky roll of the dice for Clark to head back home with both his family and pockets intact on this Vegas Vacation.
Vegas Vacation is easily the worst film in this series. When I initially saw it in theaters back in 1997, I told all my friends to see it. Why? "Because we've got to keep Chevy Chase's career alive!" I told them. As I'm sure you're already aware, Chase's career died years ago and, seemingly, there is no human way to revive it. As I sat watching Vegas Vacation again I was aghast at how unfunny Chevy has become (the day before I'd watched Spies Like Us for comparison...WOW!). In what seems to be the most unusual turn of events, Chase almost appears to be uneasy in front of the camera, almost as if he knows that his career is riding on the success of this film. He mugs, he bugs his eyes, he does his usually Chase-isms, but this time Chevy comes up snake eyes. Written by Elisa Ball (where's John Hughes when you need him?), the screenplay doesn't have the bite of the previous entries -- one of the elements that made the first few movies so wonderful was the fact that Clark was willing to go to great and often devious lengths (strapping a dead aunt to the car, stapling twinkle lights on his house) to make his vacations enjoyable. There was often a mean streak (though never cruel) running through the first three Vacation movies. With Vegas Vacation, everything's been softened up, including the performances and laughs. A confrontation between Clark and Wayne Newton is squandered, as is Clark's run-in with magicians Siegfried and Roy. Rusty and Audrey's bland adventures in Vegas make for the least interesting moments in any of the four films. Even the usually dependable Randy Quaid, beer can in tow, can't generate any hearty laughs. It's as if someone let the air out of this series after the first five minutes of this film. The solitary laugh in the whole film comes in the first few moments when Clark notes that because he's been working so much he hardly recognizes his own children. After that, it's all downhill -- joke after joke is played either too broadly or without much energy. Even D'Angelo looks slightly bored with the material. The worst part is that there are moments, as when Clark gets lost in Hoover Dam ("I am your dam guide, take all the dam pictures you want..."), when one sees where this film could have gone. With lazy direction by Stephen Kessler (The Independent) and a Chevy Chase that I just don't remember, Vegas Vacation is about as delicious as a $1.59 buffet.
If there is a redeeming quality to Vegas Vacation, it's that Warner has released this disc in a newly minted 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer (replacing the old pan and scan version). This is a decent looking print and it's leaps and bounds better than the previous edition. The colors are generally solid and well defined. There is a small amount of grain in the transfer, though generally it's in good shape without any major imperfections marring the image. While it may not be reference quality, fans will surely be happy to see this film in its original aspect ratio. The soundtrack is presented Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English and French. This is a well done sound mix that utilizes the front and rear speakers often, though it's mostly with background noises and loud music. Also included on this disc are English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Since the previous three Vacation DVDs were less than stellar, It's not surprising to find this final and lazy entry in the series to be void of almost all extra features, save for a theatrical trailer for the film and a few scant production notes.
Odds are you'll be glad this is most likely the last Vacation the Griswold family will be taking.
Review content copyright © 2003 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Theatrical Trailer
* Production Notes