“…will make eggnog shoot out of your nose…”
We’re getting down to the wire in terms of days until Christmas, so I thought that I would watch a Christmas classic: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (referred to as Christmas Vacation for the rest of this review) is a movie that I, and many others, hold close to their hearts. It is a personal must-watch come Christmas time, and I’m sure the same can be said for many others as well. The film follows the Griswold family (seen previously in National Lampoon’s Vacation, and European Vacation) as they attempt to hold Christmas at their house this year. It’s a premise that most of us can relate to, family that we haven’t seen in a while suddenly in the same house as us, the burden of responsibility resting solely on our shoulders. But Christmas Vacation also outlines some less than relatable situations, which allows for a lot of comedy.
Now the first half of Christmas Vacation has what I would call a very loose plot. The film has a goal (survive Christmas), but the goal is very vague which essentially allows for a blank canvas on which jokes can be built. This first half of the film I would say is more akin to a series of Christmas related comedy skits, rather than your traditional Christmas film. This isn’t a bad thing because we are blessed with jokes that will make eggnog shoot out of your nose, but it is something that I felt needed to be said. Christmas Vacation does ‘tighten up’ in its second half, focusing more on the relationship between the Griswold family (both immediate and extended), as well as chronicling Clark Griswold’s loss of sanity. This is where the film takes a dive into the deep end, but again this isn’t a bad thing. This portion of Christmas Vacation shows us both the true horrors (of course very hyperbolic versions), and the true beauty of Christmas.
Really the strong point of Christmas Vacation is also the part that is hardest to put into words, so I’ll say it the only way I know how: this film is fucking hilarious. As soon as the movie starts you will find yourself laughing hysterically, and that won’t subside until the credits begin to roll. The film is written by John Hughes, so really it is no surprise that it is so good. What I like about the comedy in Christmas Vacation is that it doesn’t stop. Very rarely do you have time to catch your breath before you’re on the floor laughing again. The film is brilliant with all of its ‘throw away’ jokes, but also its callbacks. Sure the family shown is not very realistic, but the way that they elevate these situations is absolutely hilarious. Christmas Vacation is also one of the most quotable Christmas movies of all time. Of course I don’t recommend going around to all of your friends and only speaking in movie quotes (nobody likes that guy, trust me), but every once in a while it is perfectly fine to throw out a “If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn’t be more surprised than I am now” or some other line that makes everyone remember how funny this movie is and all laugh in unison.
A lot of the comedy from Christmas Vacation comes from the pure skill that is demonstrated in the acting. This goes without saying, but Chevy Chase is an absolute genius when it comes to comedy. Be it with his impeccable timing, or brilliant physical comedy, Chevy Chase is the cause of most of the laughs that you get from Christmas Vacation. Of course that doesn’t mean that he is the only one who deserves praise, because everyone else in the film did great jobs as well. You have Beverly D’Angelo who does an amazing job as Clark’s wife Ellen, who is so supportive and loving even with all of the shit she has to put up with. You have Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki (who apparently were lucky enough to be chosen as this films Griswold Children) who both do great jobs as the Griswold children, getting at each others throats but at the same time showing compassion for the position that their parents are in over the holidays. And then you have Randy Quaid who does a great job as everyone’s favourite Uncle Eddie, the disgusting impoverished louse with a heart of gold. Of course you have all of the extended Griswold family as well, who all do great jobs being as annoying as they possibly can over the holidays. Really the success of Christmas Vacation was a team effort, and everyone on the team played their part well.
Overall National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is a classic Christmas movie. With jokes that don’t stop, superb performances, and a real heart-filled message, Christmas Vacation deserves to be re-watched every year.
I give National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation an A