In the one good scene from an otherwise abysmal 2015 Vacation retread, Ed Helms, playing a grown-up Rusty Griswold, visits his parents’ bed-and-breakfast in San Francisco. He and his wife and kids need a vehicle to finish their cross-country trek to Walley World, and Clark Griswold, played by Chevy Chase, offers to lend Rusty his car. They go to Clark's dual garage. Clark hits the key fob, and as the door opens the audience sees... a Nissan Altima.
“Whoops, wrong door,” Clark says.
He and Rusty move to the other one and slowly it rises until there it is: the Wagon Queen Family Truckster, that “metallic pea green,” faux-wood-paneled monstrosity, still as ugly as it was in the original Vacation, 32 years earlier.
Rusty grimaces. “Can I take the Nissan?”
“No,” Clark says.
That Truckster stands in for all the misbegotten eyesores ever manufactured, and the “wood” paneling is its most damning feature. Rightly so. By the time the first Vacation came out, fake wood had become a joke, a onetime status symbol that had been degraded to suburban kitsch by decades of reckless, tasteless overuse. To this day, I can't see a woody without thinking about all the real-life Clark Griswolds who owned them 30 years ago. In my mind they are slumping middle-aged men selling insurance out of grim office parks for bosses who belittle them; rolling down the windows after work to air out the stench of day-old fast food; returning home to wives who frankly expected more out of life, and kids who aren't as bright as their fathers had hoped. And amid this catalogue of insults and humiliations, we have that wood paneling -- once thought to convey rugged sophistication, and now operating as a cruel running commentary on the life and withering dreams of its owner.