on April 14, 2004
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation was the third film in the Vacation series of films. For many years, the first film has been hailed as a comedy classic, but this one gets plenty of praise as well. Is it one of the better entries in the series, or one of the weaker ones? Read on for my review.
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.
on April 15, 2004
It's amazing that Chevy Chase wasn't maimed or killed during the making of this movie. I know, there were plenty of stunt players who fell off the roof, crashed through the attic, were flung about into brick walls, etc.---but still! Chevy, who had a well-publicized stint in the Betty Ford Clinic for addiction to painkillers (due to extreme back pain caused by, of all things, his numerous falls on "Saturday Night Live" in the 1970's while spoofing then-President Gerald Ford---how ironic is that???), certainly took on a certain level of risk in reprising his role as the perpetually clumsy, but good-intentioned, WASP patriarch Clark Wilhelm Griswold, Jr. in this, the third installment of the VACATION series by Chase's old comedy troupe, National Lampoon.
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!
on February 24, 2004
Christmas Vacation has more humorous scenes than any movie short of Airplane and Naked Gun and it's funnier than either of those two movies. As I sit here in February, I can't remember a single scene from Christmas Vacation that wasn't funny, most of them are cracking-up funny.
I've laughed at scenes in only two other movies in my life so hard that it brought tears - the "We're not moving!" scene from The Sure Thing, and the bathroom scene from The Cable Guy. This movie has at least four scenes that genuinely, literally had me out of breath, tears rolling down my face and chest aching from laughing so hard - the attic scene, the main catastrophy scene with Todd and Margo next door, the Aunt Bethany scene (both her gift and her jello) and the squirrel catching scene. The Christmas lights, lingerie shopping, sledding and final scenes are close behind.
Chevy Chase is a comic genious (at least in Christmas Vacation - he's been in plenty of movies with inferior writing, too many, sad to say). No other comedic actor - including such greats as Charlie Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy or the Marx brothers - comes close to being as funny as Chase is with physical comedy.
I've seen two sorts of non-positive reviews for this movie. The first sort comes from people who found this movie too lowbrow for them. It's not sophisticated or dry humor like This is Spinal Tap or Best in Show (both among my favorites, incidentally), nor is it cutesy humor, such in a Hugh Grant romantic comedy. Christmas Lampoon is flat-out, ridiculous humor. It is so poignantly ludicrous, absurd, childish and downright silly that it is hilarious. A lot of other silly humor - Adam Sandler and David Spade movies come to mind - has nowhere near the level of clear focus on the ridiculous and that explains why Christmas Vacation is so funny.
The second group of people are complaining about the "Special Edition" additions to the DVD. Some are explaining that their low ratings are on the DVD, not the movie, and that is fair, while others seem to think that the movie itself is of secondary importance to the special features on the DVD. Now I've not seen the Special Edition (I just jumped to the first result from an Amazon search of "Christmas Vacation"), but what most people are complaining about is the voice-over commentary on the SE DVD. I've probably listened to the commentary on maybe four DVD's out of the hundred or so I've rented or bought, and I really cannot understand how that one feature could make or break the movie so significantly. In my opinion, the commentary, whether it is the best or the worst ever made, can only effect the overall ratings by maybe one star at the most.
Oh, between the laughs, the movie also has a nice Christmas theme of treating everyone well and being generous during the holidays.
In summary, if you can't crack at least a few smiles watching Christmas Vacation, have the paramedics bring the electric paddles, because you have no pulse.
on December 23, 2003
"National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" is one of those real gems -- you get one every five or ten years, a Christmas movie that defines that moment in time and becomes a holiday favorite like "It's a Wonderful Life," "Miracle on 34th Street" and "A Christms Story" before it. Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo reprise their roles from the previous two "Vacation" movies and decide this time to stay home and have an old-fashioned family Christmas. This would not be the Griswold family, of course, if everything didn't go wrong.
The only thing disappointing about this DVD set is that Warner Brothers has the nerve to label it a "Special Edition." While it's certainly a step up from the barebones fullscreen DVD released a couple of years ago, there's still not much here. The only special features are the trailer and a commentary track that doesn't even include Chevy Chase. (C'mon, what's he got to do these days that he's too busy to record a commentary?) This would be an okay DVD release, but it's certainly not "special." Still, it's likely to be the best we'll get, and since I avoided the previous release, I picked this one up because I do love the movie.
on June 6, 2013
I bought the BluRay version & watched it this past Christmas, it works perfectly! I can finally watch this without missing parts & getting frustrated by it skipping. I'd initially bought the Special Edition (2003) DVD & it skipped in the same sections every time without fail, unfortunately, I couldn't do anything to fix it, so I bought the BluRay & couldn't be happier!
All too often, I have found the words "National Lampoon's" to be synonymous with "not funny," but National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is actually a pretty entertaining film. Christmas at the Griswold's turns out just like you would expect it to, with Clark (Chevy Chase) trying to persevere in the face of one disaster after another. With the whole family coming over, he wants everything to be perfect -- from the Christmas tree he finds and cuts down (er, digs up) himself to the thousands of lights he staples all over the house. He's not completely stupid, though -- he knows his parents and his wife's parents are going to argue throughout the holidays, that his wife and kids aren't all that excited about sharing Christmas with the rest of the family, and that Aunt Bethany couldn't get back in the loop even if she knew where to find it, but he's determined to make this the best Christmas ever.
Of course, there are a few things Clarke wasn't counting on: countless problems getting all the decorations up and working, the unexpected arrival of cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) and his backwater brood in their junky RV, or the unwelcome visits of the aptly-named Snots the dog and a special Christmas squirrel. Then, of course, there's the cat-related tragedy, the Christmas bonus bugaboo, and that whole police raid.
The filmmakers brought together a really good cast for this film. Beverly D'Angelo is Clarke's perfectly understanding wife, while Johnny Galecki and a young Juliette Lewis play the long-suffering Griswold kids. The in-laws include Doris Roberts and E.G. Marshall, while Randy Quaid is perfectly cast as crude cousin Eddie. You even have Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a neighborly victim of all the Griswold Christmas cheer and yet another SNL alum, Brian Doyle-Murray, as Clarke's boss at work. With John Hughes, who could almost do no wrong back in the 1980s providing the script, it makes for a pretty simple recipe for comedic success.
This movie never managed to make me laugh out loud, but it is consistently amusing and entertaining. It's not like you could pack any secret laughter bombs the audience would never see coming because the audience knows exactly what kind of slapstick humor to expect. Still, it's the simple things, such as Aunt Bethany's blessing of Christmas dinner, that prove to be the funniest. I might also add that the gross-out humor is kept to something of a minimum, thank goodness. I won't be making this film a part of my annual Christmas tradition by any means, but it's certainly worth one viewing.
on March 1, 2004
Man, is this a funny movie. It has taken the place in our DVD collection along side "It's a Wonderful Life," "A Christmas Story," and "A Charlie Brown Christmas." It has all the right elements for the season: humor, a good storyline, and a lot of holiday spirt. And while I'm not a very big fan of Chevy Chase, he's perfect reprising his role as the befuddled Clark Griswold, trying to keep the relative happy during the holidays.
I'm not going to be saying anything new that the 200+ people have already said regarding the storyline of this movie, but I will pull out a few favorite scenes:
* Randy Quaid as Eddie emptying out his RV's toilet in the street. Eddie steals every scene he's in.
* Clark meeting Eddie's dog Snots for the first time.
* The squirrel attack.
* Uncle Louis catching on fire
The list can go on and one, but so do the laughs with this movie. This is simply just a great holiday film that you can watch anytime the mood strikes. It touches on all that can (and often does) go wrong during the holidays, but it all comes together with a happy ending. Highly recommended!
on January 30, 2004
This is by far one of the best comedies I have ever seen. This fresh, imaginative comedy can be watched year after year, and the humor never gets old. In fact, Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without the Griswalds!
Although their children are always different, Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo are a perfect match for portraying the campy couple, Clark and Ellen Griswald, who want to have a nice Christmas at home with the family. One disaster after another ensues, and every one of us can relate to something. Has your cat ever chewed on the Christmas tree lights? Ever accidentally taken off an old man's toupee? Spend endless hours putting up Christmas lights and they won't come on?
Of course, no National Lampoon vacation would be right without Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid). Although is brain is on the small side, and his wife and kids are straight out of a trailer park, he has the best of intentions. When Clark describes to the children at Christmas Eve dinner that the newscasts have reported sightings of Santa's sleigh, Eddie wonderingly asks, "Are you serious, Clark...?"
Another great aspect of this movie, is the addition of the snobby, yuppy neighbors, Todd and Margo (Nicholas Guest and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss), whose biggest pet peeves revolve around the lovable Griswalds. You will love to hate this stuck-up couple, and take great glee in watching them suffer the torments piled on by Clark and family. From the blinding light of 10,000 white Christmas lights, to the tree crashing through their window, it is high comedy living next to the Griswalds.
Chevy Chase is truly at his finest in as Clark W. Griswald. This film promises endless laughs, lots of good times and a true classic to be revered for all time.
on January 20, 2004
When you buy Christmas Vacation buy it for the movie that it is not for the special features and just watch the movie that way it is. Although stay away from that commentary track because you will probably hate this movie after viewing the commentary track. O.K there are just too many people talking on that commentary I used to wonder the more people on a DVD commentary track the better looks like I was wrong these actors in the film most of them except the king of the film Chevy Chase? are just talking and talking about some of the worst things Beverly D'Angelo talks about her hair and people just interrupt each other like they have no manners or something and they talk of Chevy Chase like he has passed on or something. The commentary on the original vacation is much better Chevy Chase is on that one and Director Harold Ramis and Matty Simmons give alot more insightful information about the film. I do not know what happened on the Christmas Vacation DVD though the commentary stinks! Just watch the film as it is and laugh your butt off I wish though Warner Bros would released alot more on the DVD like how about a featurette or maybe the Making of Christmas Vacation or possibly there had to have been at least one Deleted Scene. I know Warner Bros has these things but they are just not releasing these bits. The picture though looks great. Warner Bros needs to add more to there DVD's they are kind of plain and has anyone ever seen the DVD for that other Chevy Chase movie Funny Farm it just doesn't get any plainer than that but anyway Christmas Vacation is a winner but the extras are WEAK.
on January 7, 2004
I can't believe this. Folks, if you haven't bought the (cough, cough) "Special Edition" of this movie yet, don't waste your money. Seriously. If you are really curious about it, rent it and see for yourself.
The only "special" feature is one commentary. And it is truly the worst commentary I've ever heard on a DVD. For one thing, too many people are doing it, and Chevy isn't even one of them. They are all talking over each other, and they are talking about the DUMBEST things.
D'Angelo keeps rattling on about her hair. Who cares??!! You can tell right away that D'Angelo REALLY likes to hear herself talk. Oh, and did anyone catch the special ornament that came with the DVD? It's garbage. It's made of some kind of foam, or something. Unbelievable.
I'm going to sell this thing on eBay, and keep my original DVD version until something respectable comes out - if that happens.
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE this movie. I watch it a dozen times every Christmas, and I laugh every time. I adore it. But I am just seriously disappointed in this joke of a "special edition."