The storyline of the film goes something like this. The Griswalds are staying home for Christmas, and their non-immediate family members are coming to stay with them for the holidays - including cousin Eddie and his family. Yes, believe it or not, this is a Vacation film that doesn't involve the Griswalds traveling! Soon enough Clark Griswald finds himself dealing with both an ungrateful boss, as well as his entire family - which more than has their share of problems.
This film is a masterpiece. I'm even going to go so far as to say this film is as good as the original Vacation. The acting, once again, is great. Like any entry in the Vacation series, you've got to see this one to appreciate it.
The DVD is severely lacking as far as extras go despite the "special edition" tag. We get commentary and trailers, and that's about it. There's really not much other than these things, things that every DVD should have. It's the lack of extras that cost this film half a star, not the film quality itself. Still, the actual film is good, and it makes up for this.
Overall this film is a comedy masterpiece - and don't you dare deny it! If you want to laugh, pick it up. You'll be glad you did.
Having not seen (as of yet, believe it or not) either VACATION or EUROPEAN VACATION, I was a bit unfamiliar with the main characters; however, CHRISTMAS VACATION got me to know them real fast. I have to admit, I have not been a Chevy Chase fan since the '70's, during and immediately after his SNL days. (Let's face facts, the show made him an instant star, but he was never really one of the funniest members of the Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time Players.) However, I believe that he gives a truly inspired comedic performance in CHRISTMAS VACATION. I'm not even referring to the copious physical comedy he displays. I'm actually talking about his comedic acting! I love the manic energy with which Chase infuses his role, and the crazed look in his eye when his character is pushed over the edge. Beverly D'Angelo, as patient but frequently unamused wife Ellen, provides a good low-key foil for his over-the-top antics. She's well-cast and, I must say, beautiful.
As far as acting talent goes, this film has no shortage in this department. A pre-stardom Juliette Lewis is welcome as Griswold daughter Audrey, and a very young Johnny Galecki is engaging as her kid brother Russell (three years before he was cast as Darlene's lazy boyfriend David on the hit TV show "Roseanne"). We also get memorable performances from E.G. Marshall, Doris Roberts, an unrecognizable Dianne Ladd, and a hysterically funny William Hickey. Rounding out the mix is Randy Quaid as filthy slob Cousin Eddie (who parks his trailer in the driveway), Nicholas Guest and Julia-Louis Dreyfus as the bland and stuck-up neighbors next door, and Brian Doyle-Murray who serves up good moments as Clark's old crabby boss.
The problem with CHRISTMAS VACATION is that, while it does contain some very funny scenes with lots of great, memorable one-liners, it is marred by inferior direction on the part of first-time director Jeremiah Chechik. He tends to interlace the fast-paced physical scenes with long, slow ones that grind the movie to a dead halt every time. While I didn't expect the level of non-stop, lightning-paced zaniness a la AIRPLANE!, these extended slow breaks (that usually focus on a character staring dreamily into the sky) are awkwardly placed and paced, and thereby create an uneven viewing experience. However, John Hughes' smart and wickedly funny script pretty much saves the day. I wouldn't add this to the list of perennial must-see Christmas films (such as A CHRISTMAS STORY or IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE), but CHRISTMAS VACATION does offer a lot of fun for the whole family (except for kids under the age of 10, as the language is well-seasoned with four-letter words). If it does nothing else, this film should make you feel a lot better about your Christmas!