Why Two Of The Vacation Movies Lack The National Lampoon’s Branding

Summary

  • National Lampoon’s Vacation franchise was a stable one until the ’90s when Chevy Chase’s declining popularity and a falling out with producers led to the removal of the branding in the fourth film, Vegas Vacation.
  • The weakest entry in the original series, Vegas Vacation confirmed that audiences had moved on from the Griswold family.
  • 2015 reboot Vacation also dropped the branding, as National Lampoon was not involved in its production.


National Lampoon’s Vacation is a classic series of comedy films, but why do two of them lack the famous branding in their title? The original National Lampoon’s Vacation movie featured an embarrassing wealth of comic talent; it was written by The Breakclub Club’s John Hughes (and based on a short story he penned for National Lampoon), directed by Harold Ramis and starred Chevy Chase at the height of his stardom. The result was a hilarious comedy that followed the Griswold family on a disastrous road trip, and the surprise success of the film soon led to a franchise.

National Lampoon’s European Vacation followed soon in 1985, though the third instalment National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is often considered the best. The franchise was a stable one for Chase and co-star Beverly D’Angelo to occasionally return to, but the series was essentially done by the end of the ’90s. Barring a 2015 reboot that starred Christina Applegate and Ed Helms – and featuring cameos by Chase and D’Angelo – the franchise has been largely dormant.

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National Lampoon Fell Out With The Producers Of Vegas Vacation

The fourth Vacation was the first to drop the brand name

The Griswold family leaving Vegas in Vegas Vacation's ending

By the late ’90s, neither Chevy Chase nor National Lampoon were in great shape in terms of popularity. The former suffered several high-profile bombs, including John Carpenter’s Memoirs of an Invisible Man and his short-lived talk show. National Lampoon had also fallen from grace from their comedic heyday and the new owners started to license the brand to movies they had nothing to do with, like Lethal Weapon parody National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1. When the fourth film Vegas Vacation entered production, a falling out with producers led to the National Lampoon title being dropped (via Slate).

While the exact details behind this feud haven’t been revealed, considering the declining quality of National Lampoon’s output, this was probably seen as a positive move. Vegas Vacation is the last entry with Chase and D’Angelo as leads, and the first without John Hughes receiving a writing credit. Vegas Vacation has belly laughs, but it’s the weakest of the original run of films, and its lukewarm box-office confirmed audiences had moved on from the Griswolds and Chevy Chase as a leading man.

Embarrassingly, the final entry to have the branding is 2003’s National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure. This promoted Randy Quaid’s slovenly title character to lead, but while Eddie was hilarious in small doses in past movies, making him the focus was a disastrous move. This TV movie spinoff was made cheaply and quickly, and finding any laughs in it is tough work. Chase and D’Angelo skipped out on a return, though Audrey’s original performer Dana Barron reprised the role for Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure.

Vacation 2015 Had No Involvement From National Lampoon

The 2015 reboot dusted the franchise off after a 12-year break

Rusty and his family arrive at Walley World in Vacation 2015

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2 was met with awful reviews, and in the years that followed, there was no movement on another sequel. The National Lampoon brand had further descended into terrible comedies cashing in on the bad taste teen comedy trend, like National Lampoon’s Adam & Eve or Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj. When it was announced another Vacation movie was in the works in 2010, it was a given National Lampoon wouldn’t be involved in its production.

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This proved to be the case when Vacation finally arrived in 2015, with Ed Helms playing a grown Rusty Griswold attempting to take his own family on a trip. The film was a success but received largely mixed reviews, and its mean-spirited humor felt at odds with the previous films. The legacy sequel was also notable for appearances by Chris Hemsworth, Charlie Day and Kaitlin Olson.

Will Another National Lampoon Vacation Movie Happen?

Have the Griswolds stopped going on vacation?

2015’s Vacation was a modest success, but there wasn’t much appetite for a direct sequel. It doesn’t seem like there were any serious plans for a follow-up either, and no new National Lampoon Vacation movies are currently in development. In 2019, THR confirmed Christmas Vacation co-star Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory) was producing a single-camera comedy called The Griswolds for HBO Max. This would have followed the titular clan after they returned from a vacation, but it appears plans for The Griswolds didn’t make it past the development stage, as nothing has been heard about it since.

Source: Slate, THR