National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
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Silly humor for the holidays; some iffy.
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what families can talk about
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Really pushing it by this one and ceasing to be funny. I think this is actually worse than the European Vacation, and that is saying something!
- romy861, Sunday, February 7, 2010
"Where do you think you're going? Nobody's leaving. Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We're all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We're gonna press on, and we're gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he's gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse." Ah, the joys of Christmastime. Stress levels skyrocket, families fall out, and the suicide rate increases substantially. But, even worse than all the above (at least for cinephiles), it's also the time of the year when Hollywood upchucks Christmas-themed motion pictures of a low standard (like Deck the Halls, Christmas with the Kranks and Jingle All the Way, to name a few). In the grand pantheon of Christmas movies, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation - the third (mis) adventure of the Griswold family - is undoubtedly one of the best (if not the best) on offer. Everyone has a favourite Christmas movie to view as part of their annual Christmas Eve customs, and for many (this reviewer included) it's Christmas Vacation. It's the ultimate family holiday film; a prize-winning blend of hilarious gags and a poignant sense of the Christmas spirit. It's more enjoyable and charming than A Christmas Story, far jollier than It's a Wonderful Life, and far better than all those trite Hollywood holiday flicks unfairly unleashed upon the movie-going public each year. In the preceding Vacation films, Clark Griswold (Chase) and his wife Ellen (D'Angelo) have taken their family across America and across Europe. For this particular entry in the series, however, Clark wants to remain at home in the snowy Chicago suburbs in order to provide a "fun, old-fashioned family Christmas"...and he's not going to let anyone (or anything) prevent him from doing so. Both sets of grandparents show up along with a few other sudden arrivals, and his teenaged children aren't exactly interested in quality family time... Still, Clark marches on - he's determined to achieve his selfless goals. Things progressively go from bad to worse as the holy day approaches, however. With irritable neighbours, odious relatives and plain bad luck, the festive season will test Clark's endurance as he tries to weather the storm and ensure his family are supplied with a memorable, picture-book Christmas. Don't expect much solid plot - the film just observes as Clark (who just wants to get to and through Christmas intact and sane) as he staggers from one disaster to the next. The struggle to go above and beyond for the sake of family constitutes the core of Christmas Vacation. Clark (God bless him!) is prepared to move heaven and earth to fulfil his goal of guaranteeing the best "Griswold Family Christmas" possible. He may be a tad over-the-top and disconcertingly committed, but on the inside Clark is a hardworking bloke struggling to ensure the contentment of his family. In amongst the hilarity, Christmas Vacation conveys a strong message, as all Christmas movies should. It has nothing to do with the birth of Christ or the Three Wise Men, though - it merely speaks volumes about finding fun and laughter in the little moments that make life special (regardless of any mishaps). Without ever becoming mired in cringe-worthy sentimentality, it also reminds us that no matter what disasters befall us, familial relationships are what truly matter...and one should never light a match near a sewerage drain. One particular factor that can be appreciated about Christmas Vacation is that the film rarely clubs viewers over the head with humour. Instead, there are quietly-delivered lines of dialogue that prove side-splittingly hilarious ("Dad, you taught me everything I know about exterior illumination!") and some subtle sight gags (a Christmas present wrapped up with Happy Birthday paper). Aside from that, there's great physical comedy and the priceless juxtaposition of Cousin Eddie with the family. As fans would likely agree, this is a movie which never gets old. After watching it multiple times, it's still funny. Scene after scene, it's so consistently hilarious that it easily puts otherwise decent comedies to shame. Christmas Vacation was written by John Hughes (the man behind all those '80s teen flicks - The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, etc), which justifies its wide appeal. It distinguishes itself from more generic Christmas offerings with its heart, and because Hughes encapsulates the spirit of the festive season (two phenomenal achievements). Christmas Vacation is simple to enjoy, and even easier to relate to - be it troubles with the Christmas tree, irritating oldies, the decorations, the gifts, or the turkey; all the familiar dilemmas of the period are captured with sugar-coated merriment. Better, Hughes rarely feels the need to go over-the-top. It's a bonus that the pace is immaculate, and that Jeremiah S. Chechik has crafted a competent motion picture. On top of all this, the soundtrack is an enchanting cocktail of timeless Christmas tunes and original music. From the Griswold rendition of Deck the Halls to Ray Charles' The Spirit of Christmas and the terrific theme music, the songs included will further evoke the holiday spirit in a viewer. Furthermore, the film is tagged with a great opening sequence - a wonderful nod to the classic animated holiday movies of old. Christmas Vacation is also fascinating in an historical sense: it proves that Chevy Chase was once funny. Even if you're not Chevy Chase fan, it's difficult not to laugh at his blundering antics as he fumbles his way through the jolliest holiday of all. Chase may not be the most honoured thespian in history, but when it comes to Clark Griswold he has the role down to a tee. Initially a merry soul before descending into frustration and anger, Clark is the definitive embodiment of everyone who has endured the trials and tribulations of the Christmas season. But not all the best laughs are left to Chase - he receives great assistance from Randy Quaid playing the repulsive Cousin Eddie (it's hard to believe Randy and Dennis Quaid are from the same gene pool). In the cast there's also the charming Beverly D'Angelo whose interactions with Chase are hysterical, as well as Johnny Galecki and Juliette Lewis playing Rusty and Audrey, respectively. They're arguably the best actors to tackle these roles. Other memorable characters mixed into Christmas Vacation include Eddie's off-colour family, a disgusting dog named Snots, two sets of grandparents, a cantankerous uncle, a clueless aunt and two arrogant neighbours condemned to suffer through Clark's shenanigans. So many greatly realised characters vying for screen-time... Frequently cited as the best of the Vacation series and one of the greatest Christmas films ever made, nothing can derail National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Director Chechik has transformed John Hughes' masterful screenplay into a tour de force of comedy; a rare film balancing laugh-out-loud moments and poignancy. Every scene will become eternally embedded in your memory, yet you'll want to watch it again even before the credits begin to roll. If Christmas Vacation doesn't make you laugh, then you obviously don't understand the true meaning of Christmas - which is, of course, flammable toilets and electrified cats.
- PvtCaboose91, Wednesday, December 23, 2009
An unstoppable compilation of slapstick moments assembled to show one of the worst Christmases ever. Dead cats, annoying relatives, broken lights, are all utilised to varying degrees of funny. There are a few laugh out loud moments, but these tend to fall victim to earlier, more obvious attempts at humour. There's certainly nothing that can be considered memorable or witty about this film, but it's a decent enough Christmas watch.
- kiriyamakazou, Sunday, December 20, 2009