Once upon a time (say, around 1980 or so) National Lampoon was a brand name that really meant something. It meant Animal House and Vacation. If you plunked down your money, it meant that you would be entertained by the finest comedians the 1970s and 1980s had to offer. You were guaranteed a good time and possibly the loss of bodily function from laughing too hard. You were watching films that the National Film Registry would eventually deem culturally relevant and worthy of preservation. Tell that to the naysayers of 1978!

Actually, there were few naysayers in 1978. You may not realize it (or remember -- the '70s were a heady time) but when Animal House was released into theaters, Time Magazine proclaimed it one of the year's best, and Roger Ebert gave it four out of five stars, something that National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj couldn't achieve if it sacrificed children to the unholy one. Can you believe that? Once upon a time, National Lampoon movies were critically lauded. But then they also attracted talents like John Landis, Amy Heckerling, John Hughes, and Harold Ramis who could actually write and direct comedy. Even if you wanted to dismiss a film like Vacation as a bit clunky and crass (and I'm sure many did -- no critical record seems to survive on Google for this one), there was no denying that we could all recognize something of ourselves and our parents in the Griswold family. I doubt anyone walked out of National Lampoon's Barely Legal and said that. (In fact, former National Lampoon magazine writer P. J. O'Rourke told The New York Times in 2005 that what became of the company "breaks my heart, to tell you the truth." See? Movies can crush souls.)
categories Movies, Cinematical