Will National Lampoon Ever Make Another Movie?

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Since the rights to National Lampoon films were sold to Palm Star Media, it doesn’t look like any more movies are happening.

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

chevy chase

Once upon a time, plenty of films used “National Lampoon” in their titles, with the most notable early example being Animal House. This was originally meant to denote the movie’s association with National Lampoon magazine, but between the mishandling of the brand and changes in public taste, most audiences now associate National Lampoon entirely with the successful Vacation movies starring Chevy Chase. Will we ever get any more National Lampoon movies? It looks like the answer is a firm “no.”

At first glance, it’s shocking to imagine that there will be no new National Lampoon movies, especially because so many have already been released. However, there is an ongoing debate among major franchise fans about which of these movies are truly National Lampoon films or not.

The reason is simple: for nearly two decades, companies could simply pay a small licensing fee to slap the National Lampoon name on any movie, regardless of who actually worked on it or starred in it.

This was a shortsighted way of making money for the National Lampoon brand, and for a time, it worked. Those in charge of the license could effectively make money by doing nothing but loaning out their lucrative name.

Chris Snellgrove
Going the Distance

In turn, crappy movies like Going the Distance get to rebrand themselves in an attempt to trick audiences into thinking their film will be anywhere close to the quality of National Lampoon’s Animal House or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

While this helped to make some quick money in the short term, it led to a more long-term problem: the National Lampoon brand was almost completely diluted. In order to better control this brand, National Lampoon Inc. was formed in 2002. But they still loaned the National Lampoon name out.

Their cinematic output (including such scintillating films as Electric Apricot: Quest for Festeroo) grew increasingly bad, with the last official release being the 2015 documentary Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon.

Two years after the release of that film, all of the National Lampoon assets were purchased by PalmStar Media. At the time, many thought that this would lead to a National Lampoon media renaissance, but no films have been released bearing the famous imprint since 2015.

And considering the nasty behind-the-scenes lawsuit between the man who bought the rights to National Lampoon and its former president, it didn’t look like we’d be getting any new content for a good, long time.

Clark Griswold
National Lampoon’s Vacation

Still, there was a brief period when it looked like National Lampoon would make a comeback thanks to the return of the Vacation series of films. Earlier movies such as National Lampoon’s Vacation and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation helped the world fall in love with the Griswold family and their put-upon patriarch as he tries to show his wife and children a good time.

In 2015, we got a (to use the term coined by the team behind the latest Scream movies) a “requel.”

Original National Lampoon’s Vacation actors Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo show up in this film to reprise their roles, but the movie mostly focuses on Ed Helms playing one of Clark Griswold’s children who has family struggles of his very own.

The film was a modest financial success (it made $104.7 million at the box office with a budget of $31 million), but it got absolutely savaged by critics and has a bleak 27 percent critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. This movie effectively poisoned the brand for good, which may be why we haven’t heard anything about the announced Max series The Griswolds since it was announced in 2019.

In retrospect, this was likely the fatal blow for the National Lampoon brand. If they couldn’t achieve major success with their most recognizable brand, chances are they simply wouldn’t be able to succeed at all. And considering that we haven’t gotten any new films since all the rights were sold to PalmStar Media, it looks like the new owners agree with this assessment as well.

This is doubly a shame because not only were the original National Lampoon movies major cultural touchstones (how many of you watch Christmas Vacation around the holidays each year?), but they transgressively changed comedy filmmaking for the better.

Now, the state of comedy is so bad that audiences are stuck just hoping that every fifth quip in a Marvel movie has an actual punchline. It seems audiences have arrived at theaters to make a very Griswold-like discovery: comedy cinema, like Walley World, is closed…and the talking raccoon out front should have told us.

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