With all due respect to his work in Caddyshack and Fletch, I believe Clark Griswold is the role Chevy Chase was born to play.
Clark is a family man; he loves his wife and kids, and wants to spend as much time with them on this vacation as he possibly can (which is why they’re driving to the West Coast instead of flying there). Clark is also a bubbling cauldron of anger and frustration, a guy who’s not just disappointed with his status in life…he’s pissed off about it. Behind Clark’s effervescent smile and happy-go-lucky demeanor lies a time bomb of repressed emotions, just waiting to explode. Chevy Chase captures Clark’s duality to a tee. You buy his cheery optimism in the early scenes, when he happily drives hundreds of miles out of the way to show his family the world’s third largest ball of twine, and you can see the “crazies” creeping in behind his eyes when his ‘perfect’ vacation encounters one hilariously tragic twist after another.
Following National Lampoon’s Vacation in 1983, Chase would further explore Clark’s opposing nuances in three sequels, with mixed results. But there’s nothing mixed about the original. National Lampoon’s Vacation is a funny, funny film
…and a teeny bit disturbing as well.
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