Guilty Pleasures: Vegas Vacation
By Samuel Hoelker
December 16, 2010
The title of this column is misleading. Taken literally, it means that I would be embarrassed by films I like that are deemed terrible by others. I have no shame, though. I’m not embarrassed by any film I like, and I’m damn proud of it. My pleasures aren’t guilty at all.
People seem to like it when a young person takes a passion in something from their own generation. “Oh, how cute,” they may say, “little Junior’s singing ‘Hey Jude’.” The cuteness factor may diminish with age, but older people still find it fascinating when younger people break out of their target demographic (it’s strange; I’ve encountered lots of older people who are really surprised that I’ve actually seen Woody Allen movies [strange, right?]). Yet I have never found anyone a generation older than I who has been happy and surprised that I’m a Chevy Chase fan. In fact, it might make them fear for the future generation even more. They’d take 100 more Biebers than one more Chevy Chase.
I think my first exposure to Chevy Chase was Snow Day. I was in elementary school and it was, in fact, a snow day. Chase was the wacky weatherman who was an embarrassment to his son (whose farting best friend grew up to be a more urban, drug-dealing version of me in The Wackness). Soon after that was when I saw National Lampoon’s Vacation for the first time. Even then I could tell how far Chase had fallen - now I only needed to put the pieces together.
The mid-'90s is considered when Chase jumped the shark – first the ill-fated Chevy Chase Show and then Vegas Vacation. Eight years after the series-reviving National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Vegas Vacation seemed too late and, well, unnecessary. It was the first Vacation film to not have the prestigious National Lampoon label (which has been used for other top-quality films like Dorm Daze, Stoned Age, and Transylmania) on it. It was the first time since 1985’s National Lampoon’s European Vacation where the Griswolds actually went somewhere on vacation, and perhaps Vegas Vacation seemed like a retread – is this really the next logical place for the Griswolds to go after Europe?
In Vegas Vacation, Chase’s Clark Griswold gets a bonus from work and decides to take his less-than-enthused family (wife Ellen [Beverly D’Angelo], son Rusty [Ethan Embry], daughter Audrey [Marisol Nichols]) to Vegas for a week. As per the Vacation series, mishaps occur – they run into Ellen’s Cousin Eddie (a not-yet-crazy Randy Quaid), who is literally an embodiment of bad taste and bad luck, Clark and underage Rusty develop gambling problems, entertainer Wayne Newton falls in love with Ellen, and Audrey starts to get into the world of exotic dancing. How will this torn-apart family come back together? Spoiler alert: it’s with the help of Sid Caesar.