The year National Lampoon's Vacation came out, my family took a very similar vacation, to some of the same places (Grand Canyon included). I saw the movie later, after we returned home, and it really struck me. Of course, we did not strap my dead auntie to the top of the family truckster, but there were other, subtler commonalities. I have many fond memories of that trip, but I would never want to take the same ride again. But all the disasters aside, the thing that I love best about Chevy Chase's vacation is the general hopefulness of it, the notion that things could get better at any time. Clark W. Griswold is almost always cheerful, no matter what's going wrong, and he's always open to the idea of fantasy as the sexy dreamgirl (Christie Brinkley) keeps turning up in his rear view mirror.
As for a scene I love, so many come to mind. I still laugh at the absolute wretchedness of cousin Eddie's house and kids, and the way he hands a half-drunk beer to Clark while opening a new one for himself. I still love the backwoods mechanics -- one carrying the grungiest sheriff's badge in cinema history -- and John Candy's straight-laced park security guard. I love the legendary Eddie Bracken (veteran of many Preston Sturges films) as Roy Walley. I love Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) and Audrey (Dana Barron) sharing a pair of headphones -- and the Ramones -- to block out their parents' singing. I even love Lindsay Buckingham's cheerful, silly song "Holiday Road" that still enlivens my own summer road trips.
But this scene, in which Clark and Rusty have a man-to-man talk and share a beer, is something special. Let's not forget that John Hughes wrote it and Harold Ramis directed it, and they must have had a terrific summer as well.