Face-Off: National Lampoon's Vacation vs. The Great Outdoors

Since Hollywood isn't bothering to give movies unique titles anymore, the upcoming sequel/reboot to 1983's VACATION is called, you guessed it, VACATION. While it'll be interesting to see how the new generation of Griswolds fares, I doubt there will ever be anything quite like a John Hughes-scripted family outing. In honor of the late filmmaker, this week's Face-Off sees how two of the classics hold up against each other: VACATION vs. THE GREAT OUTDOORS.
The Griswold family heads from Chicago to California's Walley World for a wholesome family vacation. Countless obstacles keep them from smoothly reaching their destination.
The Ripley family heads from Chicago to a Wisconsin lake resort for a quiet getaway. Trouble arises when unwanted family members come to stay.
Clark W. Griswold (Chevy Chase): A fun to watch, overly optimistic jackass who spends more time fantasizing about another woman than trying to keep his family safe.
Chet Ripley (John Candy): A genuine good guy who wants nothing but to make happy memories for his family and have some fun along the way.
Ellen Griswold (Beverly D'Angelo): A perky, sexy character who puts up with a hell of a lot from her dolt of a husband. In the midst of all the chaos, she still tries to show the kids see the good side of every situation.
Connie Ripley (Stephanie Faracy): A lovely wife and mother with an adventurous side. Unfortunately, she's given too little to do in this movie to be a real standout character.
Rusty & Audrey (Anthony Michael Hall & Dana Barron): Our first glimpse at the two ever-changing siblings. They don't have a lot to do in this movie, but they are fleshed out and fun to watch in true John Hughes fashion.
Ben & Buck (Ian Giatti & Chris Young): These two are much more two-dimensional than their VACATION counterparts, but Buck's love story with local waitress Cammie is one of the few narrative threads tying the film together.
Cousins Eddie & Catherine (Randy Quaid & Miriam Flynn), a slew of not-quite-right children, and the dreaded Aunt Edna (Imogene Coca). VACATION is intended to be a low comedy franchise, but the whole Cousin Eddie brood takes it lower than necessary.
Roman & Katie Craig (Dan Aykroyd & Annette Bening) and their creepy twins. Roman is really the force propelling this movie forward, and his admission of money trouble allows for one of the few sobering moments in either of these films.
VACATION features a lot of obvious and extreme humor, but the subtle, blink-and-you-miss-it moments are what keep the movie fresh today. The constant change of venue allows for different types of humor, even if many of them seem stale by today's standards.
Other than Buck's dalliance and the finale with the bald-headed bear, THE GREAT OUTDOORS relies wholly on one simple formula: Chet wants to do something simple, Roman complicates it somehow, and Chet suffers as a result.
Neither of these films hold up terribly well today, but THE GREAT OUTDOORS really feels like one long gag with some heartwarming moments, while VACATION at least offers a change of scenery and several small adventures along the way. I grew up loving THE GREAT OUTDOORS, and normally I'd be a sucker for the movie that at least attempts a dramatic moment or two, but there's a reason VACATION launched a franchise, and THE GREAT OUTDOORS only hits home with those of us who grew up with it.

Agree? Disagree? Which do you prefer?

If you have a suggestion for a future Face-Off, let us know below or send me an email at [email protected].



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