How Vacation Connects To 'National Lampoon's'

In the new comedy Vacation, Ed Helms plays Rusty Griswold, a man who crazily takes his wife (Christina Applegate) and two kids, on a cross-country road trip to visit the fictional theme park Wally World. Maybe this premise doesn't sound familiar to you at all, like the kids in the trailer who tell Rusty that they've never heard of the original vacation. But many of you may recall a comedy film series from the '80s about the Griswold family called National Lampoon's Vacation. But how is Vacation connected to the original National Lampoon's Vacation series?

The new Vacation serves as both a sequel to the old films as well as a reboot to the 32-year-old franchise. How so? Well, for starters, Helms plays Rusty Griswold, who is the son in all of the previous Vacation movies. The movie is totally canon with the rest of the series, and Rusty's original parents, Clark and Ellen Griswold (played by Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo), have a cameo in the new movie. But how can it be canon if Ed Helms wasn't in the other movies? Because the same actor has never played Rusty (or his sister, Audrey) twice. The child actors were recast in every movie in the series (except for that bizarre TV movie spinoff about Randy Quaid's Cousin Eddie which saw the return of the original Audrey, Dana Barron) in what kind of became a running joke.

The new film is also a reboot because it's basically retreading the story of the original film from 1983, National Lampoon's Vacation, in what the studio hopes will be the first film in a new franchise. In the original movie, Clark takes his family on a disastrous drive from Chicago to California to visit Wally World, and now Rusty is looking to recreate the trip with his own family. So as a tribute to the series, and as prep for the new film, here are some of Rusty's best moments from the National Lampoon's Vacation series.

National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)

It's hard to understate just what a comedy powerhouse this film is. Not only does it star Chevy Chase at the top of his game, but it was directed by one of the greatest comedy auteurs ever, Harold Ramis, who also co-wrote and/or directed National Lampoon's Animal House, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, and Groundhog Day. Further adding to the film's comedy pedigree is John Hughes, who wrote the screenplay. Although Hughes is best-known for his '80s teen movies, he also wrote some of the best adult comedies of the '80s like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and Uncle Buck. The original Rusty seen here was played by Anthony Michael Hall, who had a successful career acting in Hughes' movies afterwards. In this scene, he enjoys his "first beer."

National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985)

A bit rushed to capitalize on the success of the first movie, European Vacation isn't nearly as funny as the two films in the series that it falls between, but it still has its share of solid gags, including a running one involving Monty Python's Eric Idle. As the title suggests, the Griswolds head to Europe after winning a trip on a game show, and of course nothing goes according to plan. Rusty is played here by Jason Lively, who gets thoroughly embarrassed by some French girls in this clip.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

The third film in the series saw a return to form, as Christmas Vacation is arguably the best-known film in the series and seriously challenges the original when it comes to laughs. The movie is a straight up holiday classic and is all over TV during the holiday season. Even though Rusty, who was played by a young Johnny Galecki this time around, doesn't really have much to do in this movie (it's pretty much the Clark and Eddie show), he does have a few memorable moments. Like this clip, where he catches his dad in a rather compromising situation.

Vegas Vacation (1997)

This was the first film in the series that John Hughes didn't write, the first not made in the '80s, and the first to come without the National Lampoon's seal of approval. And if you think those three things add up to a bad movie... you're right. Vegas Vacation is terrible, with nary a laugh to be found. Hopefully the new Vacation, which also suffers these same three strikes against it, can fare better. In this scene, Ethan Embry is Rusty, who is rich, or something.

And now, here's Rusty all grown up in the trailer for the new Vacation. I'll leave you to make your own judgements about how he compares to the others.

Images: Warner Bros. Studios