National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for crude humor, mild language, and sexuality
Running Time: 97 min.
Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Randy Quaid, Juliette Lewis, Johnny Galecki, Brian Doyle-Murray, John Randolph, Diane Ladd, Nicholas Guest, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, E.G. Marshall, Doris Roberts, Miriam Flynn, Cody Burger, Ellen Hamilton Latzen, William Hickey, Mae Questel, Sam McMurray
Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik
Screenplay: John Hughes
National Lampoonís Christmas Vacation is the perhaps best of the Vacation sequels, and somehow, the one that feels the most different from the others, probably because it doesnít actually involve the Griswold family actually traveling anywhere. Itís become kind of a lowbrow Christmas standard for folks who arenít into watching the old black-and-white classics, and those who want something easy for even the littlest ones to understand, and I guess it delivers enough laughs and Christmas cheer for most viewers. I honestly am a little perplexed by the appeal of it to some people, but I suppose it is light, silly and has some fun moments, so Iíll give the fans of it the benefit of the doubt. I kinda like itÖin a way. A really small way.
There isnít really much of a plot. The Griswolds invite their relatives over for Christmas, most of whom are annoying or overbearing. Clark (Chevy Chase, Funny Farm) spends much of his time doing dumb things, like buy a gargantuan Christmas tree, put a myriad of lights on his house, sled down a mountain at hyperspeed, torch a cat, chase a squirrel, etc.
Christmas Vacation is amusing in a modest way, occasionally delivering a solid laugh, although itís more of a movie that produces smiles than guffaws. Itís one of the better Chevy Chase performances (not saying much here), and the supporting characters are well-cast with nice, amusing performances. It is a fairly crude comedy, and unfortunately, many Christmas movies made since have been of this variety, so I guess I do blame the creators for part of the reason why I usually despise todayís crop of Christmas movies. At least it came first, although John Hughesí script has many shades of A Christmas Story in it, with its clueless father, eccentric characters, and mean-spirited charm.
I did laugh -- not a lot, but more than I expected. Itís not always funny to see Chevy fall from a ladder, get hit in the head, or any of the other calamities that occur during the course of the movie, but at least some of the pratfalls are clever in their limited way. Iím not that into slapstick, but if you are, you may come away liking this for the simple pleasures, so long as you arenít expecting a genuinely affecting holiday classic. Worth a look for a handful of funny scenes.
©2004 Vince Leo