What a week to celebrate a great writer and filmmakers. John Hughes has long been an influence of mine.
You can really break John Hughes films into 3 archetypes: the teen movies that we all associate with him, the awkward family comedies and more kid friendly fare. Vacation, his first produced screenplay is most definitely the second. And boy does it hold up.
We all love the movie. We all quote the movie. But what makes the story work is the subtle moments where it feels real. Chevy Chase had a goldmine to work with of moments where he could just be awkward. All of the actors did. You believed it was a family that was living together, loving each other, getting on one another’s nerves. It was about character, not just lining up jokes. Because each character had enough depth for the actors to sink their teeth into, the performances were much more memorable. Cousin Vicky has two great moments (her Daddy’s french kissing and the koolaid) born out of this awkwardness. The most important job that a writer does is create characters that jump off the page. Vacation has these in spades.
The best way to explain it is to compare it to European Vacation where there was no chemistry. And the movie is just boring.