Archives for posts with tag: road movies

From the very start, with its elegant montage of kitschy postcards set to Lindsey Buckingham’s “Holiday Road,” “National Lampoon’s Vacation” (1983) lets the moviegoer know they’re going to get a much stronger effort than what is normally given to a road movie. Written by John Hughes and directed by Harold Ramis, one family’s cross-country quest for a theme-park vacation is an epic comedy that still makes some “best” lists two generations hence. A formula plot played out by masters, suburban dad Chevy Chase leads a cast so deep, you probably won’t realize Jane Krakowski was in it until the credits.

“Coupe de Ville” was a mediocre snowflake in the avalanche of period, coming-of-age movies released around 1990. Like the others, it looks back wistfully at the late 1950s-early 1960s and tries to impart some kind of simplistic, baby-boomer value lesson. The lesson here seems to be that warts and all, it’s still important to stay connected to one’s family. My biggest takeaway from this road movie was the family that screams together stays together. Geez! The yelling!! Enough already!!! I thought uptight Daniel Stern (playing the oldest of three stereotypical, bickering brothers) was going to drop dead at any minute.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of posts that highlight storytelling techniques repeatedly recycled in film. I’ll post a link to these within some of my reviews in order to save words and keep from driving myself crazy writing the same thing over and over.

Two people (sometimes more, usually two) with very different personalities must travel a long distance. Hijinks ensue, putting the two at odds and exposing the true character in each. Travel trouble typically builds to a boiling point, which may or may not be the climax. There is an epiphany, a reconciliation and one (or both) learn a little something about themselves (aww). If we haven’t had a climax yet, we start steaming toward it. If post-climax, there’s often a twist in the denouement (ouch!). The less sappy, the better the film, but this plot structure typically leans toward the sappy.