A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this comedy is overflowing with sexual references, including innuendo and nudity. Teenagers make out with other teenagers, sometimes in front of their parents. There are several brief, comically-portrayed displays of sexual force (including that of an adult to teen). Language is explicit, though always used humorously. Also, the teenage girl struggles with eating/weight issues that are exaggerated for comic effect.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
The Griswold family, who made such a mess on their way to Wally World in National Lampoon's Vacation, sets off on a similar journey in Europe. After winning a globe-trotting trip on a Family Feud-style game show, Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) and his wife Ellen (Bevery D'Angelo) and teenage children Audrey (Dana Hill) and Rusty (Jason Lively) race through England, France, Germany, and Italy, packing in all the sights they can manage. Guided by jolly and oblivious father Clark, the family nearly kills several Brits while driving on the wrong side of the road, knocks down Stonehenge, mangles the French language, gets chased by Germans in lederhosen, and becomes involved in a kidnapping and robbery scheme that ends in a dramatic car chase. Along the way, Audrey pines for the boyfriend she lefts back home and Rusty flirts with every girl he sees.
Is it any good?
The movie touches on all the funny and awful elements of family travel, from bickering siblings to managing unfamiliar customs, and these things will resonate with parents more than teens. But teens will see themselves in the film too -- the girl obsessed with her boyfriend, the boy testing out his macho side -- all while struggling to get along with their parents. Some scenes are typical slapstick stuff -- poking someone in the groin, silly car chases, etc. -- and provide mild amusement. But a few scenes, like when the family loses their luggage and goes boutique shopping in Italy, are truly laugh-out-loud moments. The themes that are played for laughs, like the teen girl binging and starving herself or the adult passionately kissing the teen girl, are touchy subjects. While the movie clearly aims to poke fun at extreme behaviors, some younger viewers might not understand the complexity of the issues.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stereotypes. What kind of stereotypes about Europeans show up in the movie? Is there anything harmful about portraying stereotypes this way? What function do stereotypes perform in our understanding of different cultures?
Talk about relationships. What kind of relationships are on display here? Do these types of relationships seem familiar? Do the people in them seem happy? What is different about the girl Rusty meets in the end compared to the other girls he meets in Europe?
Families can talk about eating problems. What was Audrey's relationship to food? Do you know any people in real life who have food or weight struggles?
- In theaters: July 26, 1985
- On DVD or streaming: April 2, 2002
- Cast: Beverly D'Angelo, Chevy Chase, Dana Hill
- Director: Amy Heckerling
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sexual content, graphic partial nudity, and language
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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