Unbearable heat. Irritable passengers. Engine trouble. Nothing says summer like a road trip. And if you don’t want to go through the ordeal of taking one yourself, the Forsyth County Public Library has you covered. We offer a large array of DVDs free of charge. Here are some of my favorite road trip movies to help you get into gear.
National Lampoon's Vacation (Rated R) is the quintessential summer road trip movie. The Griswolds decide to drive the family cross-country from Chicago to California to visit Disney World stand-in Walley World. Of course getting there is half the fun, or really the whole fun as almost the entire movie is about their journey. Starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, and Anthony Michael Hall, I think anyone who has taken a family vacation can relate to this movie. The interactions between the family members are equally as funny as the fantastic events they experience. One of the more humorous sub-plots involves Griswold patriarch Clark’s (Chase) attempts to impress an attractive woman (Christie Brinkley) whom he encounters throughout the trip. Also, they visit family in Kansas, a stop that is highlighted by the disgusting Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid in his definitive role) and his equally revolting daughter (Jane Krakowski of 30 Rock fame). My favorite part is when the Griswolds finally make it to Walley World and meet up with a displeased security guard played by John Candy. With an R rating, this family vacation is not the most family-friendly movie, so be careful if you want to watch it with your family. Definitely do not watch the far raunchier 2015 Vacation reboot with children… or anyone else.
Another great tale of family bonding is the all-time classic movieOver The Top (Rated PG). Starring Sylvester Stallone, Rick Zumwalt, and Robert Loggia, this movie is about father-son relationships, driving truck, and the sport of arm-wrestling. Stallone plays the role of Lincoln Hawk (sometimes called Hawks, it’s not consistent) a truck driver/arm-wrestler who is asked to drive his estranged son Michael from his school in Colorado to his home in Los Angeles. Though the trip gets off to a rocky start, over the course of their journey through the Southwest via truck the two begin to bond over their arm-wrestling exploits. Loggia plays Michael’s grandfather, and tries to foil Hawk at every turn. In my favorite scene of the movie, Hawk throws his body guard (Terry Funk) through a glass door. The other antagonist is Bull Hurley (Zumwalt), the undefeated arm-wrestling champion 5 years running. Hawk must try to defeat both men so he can win his son’s love and the arm-wrestling world championship (and the new truck that comes with it).
The Wizard (Rated PG) is another road trip movie about a family that is in need of repair. Starring Fred Savage, Beau Bridges, and Christian Slater, the movie is about two half-brothers on a journey to a video game tournament in California. After finding out that his half-brother, Jimmy, has been placed in a mental hospital, Corey (Savage) breaks him out and they decide to run away from home. Along the way, they meet a similarly delinquent girl named Haley, and the trio head to the Video Armagedon tournament after discovering Jimmy’s talent for video games. Along the way, the group must avoid a loathsome private investigator hired by Jimmy’s step-father. Meanwhile, the boys’ concerned father (Bridges) and brother (Slater, as strange as ever) also track Jimmy and Corey, but are always a step behind. The Nintendo Entertainment System plays a big role in The Wizard, with characters setting up and playing the video game console everywhere they go, even at motels and auto-repair garages. My favorite scene involves a clueless Bridges excitedly playing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Nintendo game. The movie is also notable for its inclusion of the Nintendo Power Glove (“It’s so bad”) and the debut of Super Mario Bros. 3, which was a big deal at the time. This movie is only available in NC Cardinal as part of the Family Favorites: 10-Movie Collection.
Not all road trip movies are about families. The Muppets Movie (Rated G) is about how the Muppets came to be successful entertainers. After hearing Kermit the Frog sing the song “Rainbow Connection” in a swamp, a Hollywood agent suggests that Kermit go to Los Angeles to get in to show business. Kermit is convinced, and sets off for California, which is apparently the destination of all theatrical road trips. Early on Kermit meets stand-up comedian Fozzie Bear, and the two hit the open road. Along the way they befriend other Muppet mainstays such as rock band Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, plumber Gonzo and his girlfriend Camilla the Chicken, motel pianist Rowlf, and county fair beauty pageant winner Miss Piggy. During the trip they must avoid the villainous Doc Harper (a parody of Col. Sanders), who repeatedly tries to capture Kermit and make him the face of his Frog Leg restaurant chain. The Muppets Movie features numerous cameos, my favorite of which is an appearance by Steve Martin as a waiter that serves Kermit and Piggy.
Patrick Swayze and Sam Elliot star in another great movie about road trips, Road House (Rated R). Well, it may not really be about a road trip, but you can’t have a good road trip if you don’t stop at a road house. Swayze plays Dalton, the best head bouncer, or cooler, in the business. He's so good that he gets recruited to the Double Deuce in Missouri to clean up the club (his pay: $5,000 up front, $500 a night, plus medical). He fires ineffective staff (including Terry Funk), improves the decor, and weeds out unseemly customers. Not everyone is happy with these developments, as the rich man who runs the town (and got it a J.C. Penney) gets angry at Dalton and the Double Deuce. He expresses his anger by destroying the bar's beer shipments, destroying the bar's furniture, and running over cars at a dealership in his monster truck. To fight back, Dalton seeks the help of his mentor Wade Garrett (Elliot), and the two wage war against the town rich guy. Road House contains many violent scenes and is definitely not suitable for family viewing.